Steaming container option: an update
Mid-February I wrote a blog entry http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/27427/fine-tuning-process that included using grill humidifying containers to generate steam. I've been using these for a couple months now, and can report I'm delighted with them.
These are sold by Amazon: Charcoal Companion CC4071 Moistly Grilled Grill Humidifier.
Although the manufacturer claims they are pre-conditioned, I've conditioned them further, and make certain I dry them immediately after removing them. They tend to rust slightly if not cared for.
I place them on a rack in the top-most position in the oven. I experimented with placing them on a bottom-most rack, but found it difficult--and less safe--removing them. The small rolled towel fragments at each end keep them from sloshing as all long and thin containers do, again a minor safety adjustment.
I fill them with preheated water, and place them on each side of the top-most rack about 10 minutes before loading loaves. I've found they take a bit longer to produce steam, than a pan with more surface area. Nonetheless, once boiling they produce steam abundantly. I use them without their perforated covers. When the initial steamed baking time is completed I remove them, using oven gloves, immediately, and uncover the oven vent. Then I place the oven into convection mode to finish the bake; the convection fan quickly vents the oven.
Prior, I created steam by putting a half-sheet pan, lined with wet towels, on the top-most rack. I got plenty of steam, but the pan blocked the radiant heat from the top heating coil. Consequently, I wasn't getting all the oven spring and bloom available. This method is the safest I've found to date, and as effective, or better, than any other method I've used previously.