Does steam in the oven give a soft crust or a hard one ? I like a crusty loaf.
Why two risings rather than one ?
I wouldn't say steam, categorically, produces a "soft" or "hard" crust, because the quality of the crust depends also on how one treats the bread after it is removed from the oven. Steam will certainly enable you to achieve those seductively "crackly" crusts that, when squeezed, compel their boulangers to exclaim of them, "Dis donc tu chantes !"
There are, I am sure, various reasons for the two risings. For one, it allows the dough to ferment even longer, thus contributing both to shelf life and to more complex flavor. Additionally, the second rising is also known as the final "proof," a term which some claim--whether apocryphally or not, I do not pretend to know--is derived from the idea that the dough needs to "prove" that it is still alive and worthy of a bake.
These are my impressions, which I hope you find even slightly edifying; for myself, they reveal to me that I, too, am in need of further clarification on the matter. Even after years of SD baking, I remain but an apprentice.
Happy baking, mon ami !
a quick and easy way to think about the pair of fermentations is bulk is for flavor and proof is for structure, an oversimplification I know
Thanks guys. So, what can give me a lovely crackly crust ?
Hot baking 440F or higher!
Remove steam after 10-15 min!
Bake last 5 min with slightly open oven door!
Baking this way I ALWAYS have a nice crackly crust!
I second the counsel of Mirko . . . you want to put your raw dough into a rocket-hot oven, preferably onto a rocket-hot baking stone. I will usually heat up my oven for about an hour prior to baking, at a temperature of about 500, in order to ensure that the stone is ready to do its best. About a minute before the loaves go in, I set the beast to 550 and prepare the peel while she continues to heat up. Toss some ice into a cast iron pan on the bottom to create steam . . . one minute later, the loaves slide from the peel onto the stone and the oven comes back down to a more modest 450 - 500 for the rest of the process (which varies depending on the dough -- my miches usually take about an hour ; others are ready in as little as 20 minutes).
I will open up the oven door about 15-20 minutes into the process to let out any lingering steam, though the vent on my oven often takes care of this in as much time (gradually).
Steam and high initial temperatures are super important to getting that singing, crackly crust ! Sometimes, you have to burn down a house or two in order to get a decent bread . . . kidding, maybe.
Well, I do use hot temperatures, I heat the oven to around 500 initially then when I put the bread in I reduce it to around 400 - and cook for around 30 35 mins'. I don't have stones. I don't always use steam but to be honest it never makes much difference. I just don't seem able to get a nice crust :-(
I am still pretty new to artisan bread baking, but I used a little spray bottle and sprayed the loaf with water while it was baking, as well as having a pan of water in the oven. It turned out excellent (I also don't have a baking stone).
Hmm, interesting Dr Sloth, I'll try that. I've been baking for years but I'm still trying to, get the crust I like !
Well, about opening the oven to spray water etc.... I always thought it was not acceptable to open the oven while the bread was cooking ?
and the steam evaporates, before it can do its job - there are several other methods of steaming, discussed and used by TFLers (check under the search function), like using lava stones, towels etc.. Those might work better for your oven.
It does depend on your oven definitely! My oven is a small electric apartment oven that holds moisture in really well so I usually don't have a problem opening my oven for a few seconds. Here is the bread I baked today using the spray bottle method (also with a pan of water).
I usually spray the loaf once every ten minutes or so. That seems to do the trick for me. If your oven tends to be on the dry side I would spray the loaf more often. When the outer crust of the bread looks visibly wet then you can cease spraying and close the oven to resume baking. Good luck!