poor spring/dry crust in restaurant oven -- ideas?
Hi folks! I work for a local cafe that has been shipping in expensive baguettes for their sandwiches. I made a batch of Italian rolls from BBA as a potential alternative, and have been appointed the official baker of such rolls from now on (hooray!). However, I'm having some predictable challenges with their ovens, since they're not designed for bread baking.
What I'm working with is an electric, convection, fan-never-turns-off oven that I can fit 3 or 4 full-size sheet pans into at once. I've done my due research; leaving the fan on High dries out the crust, and Low gives inconsistent heating, so I've been doing the trick with such ovens where I turn it off for the first part of baking, then return to heat once the bread has had time to spring a little.
It's still not ideal though, so I could use some help. The Italian loaves aren't as picky, since the crumb is softer and more closed, although I'd like them to look a little nicer if I could. But I tried baguettes today that usually give me great grignes at home, with disappointing results. I've been doing a small cast iron pan that I add hot water to right before shutting off and closing the oven, and I've been spritzing the loaves with water after scoring to add a little extra moisture. But it doesn't seem to do much.
So here are my ideas, and please add to the list:
-better steaming: I'd like to use Sylvia's towel technique in some form for the steam, but I'm a little hesitant to put a cloth towel in a commercial oven that is going to be baking for awhile (in case I forget and it dries out, burns down the building, etc). My only idea is that I could potentially have the wet towel in a pan while the oven heats, with a lid on the pan so it doesn't lose moisture until I want it to. Do you think that would work, or would the little "mini sauna" keep itself from heating up enough? (And, will it make enough steam once I open the lid?)
-longer shut-off: I've only done a shut-off of the ovens for about 3 or 4 minutes so far, because it looks like the loaves aren't doing anything after that time. Should I steel my nerves and go longer? I know even at home, I give up on oven spring after 5 minutes, only to have the loaves blossom beautifully by around 10. I think I'm worried that the oven temperature will decrease too much if I leave it off too long. What's better-- to have a well-steamed environment with falling temps and then kick them back up, or consistent temps at the expense of a little of the steam?
-any more ideas? obviously it's impractical/impossible to cover the actual loaves to let them steam themselves, so I need a fairly practial, low-fuss, high-volume solution in these cranky ovens. maybe someday the owners will fall in love with bread enough to get a deck oven, but I'm up for the challenge of MacGyvering it for now.
Chime in, thanks!