The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Coke can steamer

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fermento's picture
fermento

Coke can steamer

I have never been entirely happy with my steaming methods in my home oven. 

The Tartine 3 book inspired me to get a Dutch oven, resulting in very pleasing crusts - thin, shiny and very crisp. It also inspired renewed efforts to improve steaming when baking loaves without the container.

A cast iron pan brought some improvement - a couple of minutes on the stove top on high heat, and pouring boiling water into it in the oven brought furious (and potentially dangerous!) boiling off, though the cooler boiling water soon swamped and cooled the cast iron vessel. 

I had read that steam can actually cool an oven, as its temperature of 100°C is much cooler than, say, a 275°C preheated oven, so I wanted to find a way to preserve the higher heat of the cast iron, and achieve super-heated steam.

This Coke can steamer has substantially improved the results.

Still using the cast iron pan to generate steam, I simply cut two holes in a Coke can -  a large one to pour boiling water into, and a tiny one to more slowly dispense the boiling water onto the cast iron pan. Some aluminium foil under the can stops it rolling about.

 

Happily, the resulting crust is just as good as I am getting in a Dutch oven.

trailrunner's picture
trailrunner

errr...hot !  Interesting idea. Always something new on TFL. I will have to try this. I managed to break the $85 glass on my oven light with the use of lava rocks and pans and water...a wayward splash I guess. Not worth it to me. So I use cast iron pans. Your can steamer looks very doable and safe . Thanks for posting. c

fermento's picture
fermento

You're welcome. Yes, it's very simple - and comparatively safe!

BobBoule's picture
BobBoule

steamer! Simple, inexpensive and easy to use. I can see a whole new sub-genre of "canners", bakers that use your steaming method who argue the merits of different can materials; filling levels; number of holes and where they should be placed as well as discussing if a two or three can approach with less water in each can would be better.

fermento's picture
fermento

Ha, yes I eagearly await refinements to my crude prototype! : ))

Prairie19's picture
Prairie19

Have you measured the time in seconds it takes for the can to drain?  I'm assuming that it is a 12 ounce can.

 

 

fermento's picture
fermento

I'll do that next time I bake. It's fairly slow - the hole's smaller than it looks in the photo, but that's an area for experimentation. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/comment/11505#comment-11505

I think Floyd was experimenting with a can with a nail hole at one time.  

I used a small tomato paste can in my China mini oven.

The danger comes in passing over the hot oven door glass with a dripping can.  Be careful!

fermento's picture
fermento

I hadn't seen that old thread - was still in bread purgatory back in those days, having yet to discover bread baking of any kind! Oh well, so this idea is not a first, though the implementation is a variation, and it's probably time for another airing after 7 years since that post.

I don't handle the can at all, apart from putting the empty can on the cast iron pan - I agree it would be hazardous. I place the proofed loaf into the heated oven, then slide out the wire shelf with the cast iron pan contraption far enough to pour boiling water into the opening in the can. 

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Why not make the pin hole on the side bottom so you can stand it upright? Fill it through the mouth opening, hold finger over the hole on bottom and then set it on the pan, releasing the hole and letting the steam begin?

fermento's picture
fermento

Yes that's certainly another way to do it - and you could also use a squatter can that way. 

I do use boiling water though, which I prefer to putting a mass of cold water (though small) into the oven - and if using a Coke can, horizontally takes less vertical space.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Keeping the oven open long enoug to pour the water may let out too much heat. Use beeswax to plug the hole. Fill can with boiling water, open door and place can in cast iron pan and close door. Was will finish melting in 1 second afte door is closed and you are all set!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

too much steam (the whole thread is interesting too)

 Steaming madness:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/comment/55508#comment-55508

You can find lots of experiments with steam here in the archives.  

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

cold water in this idea but I don'tthink it will put out anywhere near enough steam to get into the Mega Steam category.  We use 2 of Sylvia's steaming pans with kitchen towels and a a David lava rock pan all half full of water and they tale up the entire width of the bottom rack.  They go in at 525 F and put a huge load on the oven,   It takes another 15 minutes to get to 550 F  but at that time it is putting out about 100 times more steam than this can would.  But it is interesting and cute!.

You just have to remember to keep your face away from the door when you open it to slide the bread in on the stone or you will burn your face so bad you will need a face transplant.  Here is a picture right before it goes in.

In the winter time when I open the door to take the steam out,  the entire kitchen fills with steam :-).  In  the mini oven, we use 2 of Sylvia's steaming Pyrex measuring cups with a dish rag inside and 3/4 th full of water.   Those are heated to boiling in the  microwave before going in with the bread and splash of water in the bottom for instant steam.

Happy Baking.

fermento's picture
fermento

You seem to suggest that too much steam is never enough... but I have great reservations about that, both from the practical success of this Coke can method, and from my very limited understanding of the way steam works in an oven.

As I understand it, once you have achieved full steam saturation, the only variable is then the temperature of the super heated steam - and that is where I think the can method really shines. It has no problem achieving full steam saturation but because the rate at which it dispenses the boiling water into the superheated cast iron pan is controlled, it doesn't overload the oven (either the existing heat or the oven elements).

I have read (and my experience seems to confirm it) that the problem with steam in most home setups is that because it is emanating at only 100°C, it actually cools the oven down, hence the need to superheat the steam - which this setup does very well.

The resultant crust is superb - may I be cheeky and suggest that experience beats speculation every time. Try it, you might be surprised!

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

and mine were less than satisfactory using other, more puny steaming methods, until i tried to replicate a commercial steam injection deck oven that puts way more steam in a smaller space than my home efforts do.  I figure they are doing it (and not using very limited steaming methods) for a reason. 

The biggest problem I see with your 'mini me' set up is trying to get the initial steam back in the oven when you open the door to put the bread on the stone.  Ovens leak seam like a sieve already, esecially gas ones, and why a DO is better in them by far and probably better in a big electric oven too.   Your method  has to take forever to recover, like throwing in a few Ice cubes in the pan,  but my oven at 550F with two stones and Mega Steam is immediately back to temperature with full steam as soon as the door closes,  That  steam never shuts off.  You can make steam at lower temperatures and in smaller amounts  but it is very powerful when it is 550 F blasting away and a killer at 2,000 F biut I haven't seen that since the Navy - not pretty..

I'm not saying your method doesn't work and might be fine for my little  mini oven if it didn't take up the entire space,   But I know my steam really does a great job  in the the Bilg Old GE.

But, the mini oven puts the best crust on bread because I can get Mega Steam in it too and it is only 1/2 CF of space instead of over 5 CF and doesn't leak as bad as BIg Old Betsy.

If it works for you, I say go for it .......or a DO ...... But I'm not going back to less steam but will use a DO because it is tough to beat for steam and putting on crust in a big oven - regardless of the steaming method.. 

fermento's picture
fermento

I'm glad you're so happy with your setup, and I have no intention of proselytising, and no interest in getting you to change your ways - but you make assumptions on the capacity of this system that are quite wide of the mark.

No, it doesn't take "forever to recover" at all - the amount of steam required to saturate the volume of air in an average home oven (it's not a "mini" oven) is not great. And in any case, I first place the bread in the oven, and immediately fill the Coke can, so there is no double handling.

As always, it's the results that are the real test - and this 2kg loaf's crust was close to perfection.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

What kind of iron pan is pictured?  What hinges onto it?  

-Mini

fermento's picture
fermento

Hi Mini, 

It's just a pan I picked up at a camping store. The handle is quickly removable which is perfect for this application.