The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Effect of oven temp and humidity on oven spring

WillH's picture

Effect of oven temp and humidity on oven spring

Hello, I have been avidly reading the forum posts on this site for a few months now. I find it the most comprehensive source of decent info about bread baking around.

I have one unanswered question though. 

I want really fluffy bread. I know that steam encourages oven spring by preventing the crust from hardening too early. I also know that bakers use a very high temperature in their professional ovens and that this somehow maximises oven spring.

But surely, the higher the temperature, the quicker the crust will harden, preventing further rising?

I have experimented with using a preheated cast iron skillet to create steam with ok results. However, I noticed a marked improvement when steaming the bread for the first 10 minutes, in its bread tin, in a covered stock pot on the hob with water covering the bottom. This created more steam than the skillet method, and seemed to give a better oven spring and a lighter crumb. I then finished  the bread off in the oven to brown the crust. The downside to this method is the temperature achieved is so much lower than that of a professional steam injected bread oven.

Why then do we need this high temperature? Surely it's better to ramp up the temperature slowly, to allow the heat to penetrate deep into the loaf, allowing the yeast to produce gas while the loaf surface is still wet?

Thank you for your help. This has baffled me for a while now....



PaddyL's picture

Simply because I too thought that the crust would 'set' too soon and not give me a good oven spring, so I generally bake my breads at no more than 350F.  If I haven't overrisen them before baking, they generally do very well and have good oven spring.  I do have a bread recipe that calls for baking the bread at 300F for an hour and that give a very soft, fluffy bread.

WillH's picture

Interesting. I am going to bake at a lower temperature today in the oven, over a skillet of steaming water, to gently heat the bread throughout, and then turn it up for the second half to get the crust. Ill let you know how it turns out.

This article summarises exactly what I was talking about. 

"Professional bakers of rustic breads use ovens that achieve higher temperatures than home ovens achieve. Turning the temperature of your oven up when baking rustic breads will help you get closer to professional quality loaves."

hmm...professional how? In that they have a nice crust? Well ok, but surely this early crust hardening couteracts the oven spring, and kills the yeast earlier? Maybe the professional ovens inject steam so effectively that this crust hardening is delayed even at high temps. Maybe the yeast is somehow given a burst of energy by the rapid temperature change, and maybe the heat penetrates quicker in the center of the loaf. If these points are correct, I would love to know for sure!