The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

using steam to get a crispy crust

suki mandelbrot's picture
suki mandelbrot

using steam to get a crispy crust

i was wondering if anyone has any advise. I am trying to create  a crisp crust to my bread.  I have a domestic gas oven and have tried the usual suggestions such as spraying the dough with water, adding trays of water and flopping wet cloths into the oven cavity to create steam non has been successful.

I borrowed an electric food steamer with 3 stackable plastic baskets from work. Because of their size I made 3  9 ounce (255 g) white bread batons proved them in the steamer baskets on pieces of baking parchment. I steamed them in a stack for 4 minutes, lifting them out of the steamer was a bit tricky  as the crust was still soft and i was a bit mean with the baking parchment. Then baked them still on their bits of parchment  the result was quite good and they had a nice colour and flavour but still not quite as crusty as i would like. So any suggestions would be great. I am considering borrowing a fish kettle from work which has a liftable trivet and of course would make a considerably longer loaf.

sorry no photos as the bread was demolished in minutes

WoodenSpoon's picture

Are you baking at a hot enough temp, Are you baking on a stone? I preheat a sheet pan in the rack below my stone and right before baking I splash a little hot water on the pan. then immediately after loading I splash on some more and I usually have some pretty consistent success at least in the crusty crust department. Also bear in mind the formula you are following will dictate the type of crust you end up with.

Bakingmadtoo's picture

From everything I have read on this forum, you will have a much harder time trying to create steam in a gas oven than in an electric oven. The simplest solution is to bake in a covered baker of some sorts, then the bread will create its own steam. If you search some of the threads on generating steam you will see ingenious solutions for creating covered bakers. You can even use upturned disposable, foil roasting trays over your bread on your baking stone. 

MarkS's picture

I have a large metal bowl with a lip diameter the same as my pizza stone. I place the bread on the stone and cover it with the bowl for about 15 minutes and then remove the bowl and let the loaf bake the rest of the way uncovered. I've actually had steam burns from removing the bowl carelessly (use and oven mitt, NOT a hot pad!). This method gives the loaves a great deal of oven spring, something I couldn't get with any other steaming method.

CompleteAmateur's picture

I use the handful of ice into a preheated cast iron skillet method and it also produces decent steam / crust results.

nicodvb's picture

I pour a glass of water on a  shallow (important!) tray that I insert just below the bread (that I bake on the griddle using a sheet of parchment paper). I always start from cold oven, I don't preheat it. The water evaporates in ~15 minutes and the crust comes out very crackly and crisp. It's very different from the solid crust that I get in my convection oven, because in this last case the crust is crisp but compact, it doesn't sliver everywhere when I slice the bread.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

The Lodge Combo Cooker makes an excellent steaming vessel. Load the dough into the shallow pan and cover with the deeper pan.  I bake for 20 minutes covered and 20 minutes uncovered and get great results with the Basic Country Loaf from Tartine Bread.

The round loaves here were made with the combo cooker, and the rectangular loaf was made using the Lodge Loaf Pans in the same way, only I let the bread proof in the pan instead of in a basket.

I found the crusts to be very good, though certainly more crisp in the round loaves.