The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

steaming, cooling, mistakes and successes

pmiker's picture

steaming, cooling, mistakes and successes

This is my second attempt at Vermont Sourdough from Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman.  The first attempt was edible and some folks loved it but I really screwed it up.  I used a rye starter that has proven quite healthy.  I welcome all advice, critiques and comments.

I used the tips from SylviaH for steaming.  Yep, it works.  Lots of steam.  Ouch, I need longer gloves.  But how long should I steam?  I let it steam for at least 10 minutes until the sides started to brown.  The towels were still wet and steaming.

Due to browning, I turned the oven down from 460F to 445F after about 25 minutes.

I had a steam pan at one edge of my stone.  This cramped things a bit and the loaves kissed.  I probably should have left the kiss intact until the loaves cooled off.  I'm sure that breaking up that hot kiss will haunt me.

I also did not make the cuts near deep enough.  I did get good oven spring.  These loaves each weigh a bit over 23 ounces out of the oven.

When the loaves were out of the oven they really started crackling.  I've not heard loaves so noisy.

I normally do pan loaves but decided to have a go at the steam and stone again.  I'm sure I'll feel the burns later.

I have plastic bags I can put these into.  What would be better to save the crunch of the crust?  At least for a day maybe.

I'll post a photo of the crumb in an hour or so



BobS's picture


I wish my second attempt at sourdough looked like that; nicely baked and excellent oven spring.

I also use the pan steaming technique, but put the pans on the bottom rack, under the stone. I also stole the tip from dabrownman to put the pans in when the oven has heated to 25 degrees below the target temperature (500 in my case.)

I would skip the plastic bag. Sourdough will keep on the counter for some time. Or you could freeze a loaf. I often slice a loaf and freeze the slices, then lightly toast them to thaw as I need them. A friend does the same but makes his lunchtime sandwiches with the frozen slices. By lunchtime his bread is thawed, and he doesn't need an ice pack in his lunch bag. :)

pmiker's picture

at steaming were done using a cast iron skillet on the bottom and adding boiling water to it.  I will probably use the lower shelf for both pans next time.  One on each side to let the steam come up the sides.

I'm worried about the raw spot where the loaves touched.  I'll be eating from one tonight and taking one to work tomorrow to share.  Since I work in an animal clinic, I'll put it into plastic for health reasons.

BTW, this time I used the covers for the bannetons.  I just wanted to see how it worked.  I rolled the boules fairly tight but perhaps they could have been a bit tighter.  Yes, I got some decent spring but a bit of spread as well.

Thanks for the comments.

BobS's picture

I think the 'raw spot' will be fine. It'll be like eating the inside of a slice, without crust.  I'm speaking from experience here:)

I just stick my towel pans in the middle; there's enough room on the sides for the steam to move up. The important thing is to get the steam going early; the bread needs it in the first few minutes. Otherwise the crust will harden and you won't get enough spring. Looks like you have that covered.

I often use the covers for my bannetons, dusted with rice flour. Especially when the dough is extra sticky or when I am retarding it. I also make this bread (or a variation of it by now) and usually retard it overnight in the fridge. Having a dough that is a little firmer makes it a bit easier to practice scoring too.


Bob Marley's picture
Bob Marley

Hey Pmiker, the loaves look great but they baked too close to one another.  If baked too close, they'll fuse with a kiss as it were!     Mwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!      <8^DDDDD

pmiker's picture

Vermont Sourdough Crumb

1. Put both steam pans below the stone to allow more room for the loaves. (No kissing in the oven.)

2. Let the dough rise a bit longer after shaping.  The crumb is just a bit denser than in the photos I see on this site.

3. Get longer gloves!


Neither I nor my wife discern any sourdough taste. It's a really mild tasting bread.  Chewier than my pan loaves.

I need to try this recipe with my white flour starter and my whole wheat starter.  Just to see what the difference is.


Bob Marley's picture
Bob Marley

Perhaps a lil' more slash for spring although what I observe in the previous post looks utterly great!  Good job, baker!  8)

pmiker's picture

Thanks for the nice comments.

pmccool's picture

You may see all of the flaws.  What I see is some good-looking bread.


LindyD's picture

That should protect you from steam burns (very nasty things).  Ove Gloves can be found on Amazon.  They're fantastic, plus washable. 

As Paul stated, your VT sourdough looks pretty nice.  

Bread baking is such an interesting journey.  If you follow the same road (formula) time and time again, your technique and results will only improve over time.  Looks like you're doing quite nicely on your tasty journey.

It took me a long time and lots of experimentation to figure out the best way to steam my own oven.  My journey is described  here.  It includes some links to interesting method previously posted by SteveB and David Snyder, which you may enjoy reading.

Keep on experimenting and enjoying the results.

PetraR's picture

and I do love the little kiss they gave each other.

Share and tear bread does the same * on purpose * and so , no worries, there are no raw bits, it is just crumb without the crust:)

I learned my lesson and bought myself some Oven Gloves that go up to my Elbow. 

No more burns for me. ha