The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking Steel vs. Combo Cooker: Crust

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HappyHighwayman's picture
HappyHighwayman

Baking Steel vs. Combo Cooker: Crust

Normally I bake my loaves in a cast iron combo cooker. I find this gives me the best crust...it ends up being very hard and lasting. It takes ~45 minutes per loaf, and since I have only one combo cooker it takes 1.5 hours to do two loaves.

 

Yesterday I used my baking steel and I baked two loaves in 30 minutes...the bread tastes amazing and looks great but the crust is much, much softer.


How do I get the crisp crust when not using an enclosed baking method?

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

2 of Sylvia's steaming pans - half full of water and a kitchen towel rolled up  and 1 of David's lava rock pans also half full of water.  I put them on the bottom rack wihen the oven hits 525 F - no convection,  with a preheat temp of 550 F. 15 minutes later  steam is billowing.  Put bread on the steel wait 2 minutes and turn the oven down to 475 F.  Steam at least 15 minutes for 2 loaves.  Great crust every time

HappyHighwayman's picture
HappyHighwayman

Wow thanks a lot.

 

Where do I buy Silvia's Steam Pans and David's Lava rock pans?

 

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Any baking pan; loaf, 9x13 or 8x8 of any kind works.  Just get some lava rocks at the Home Depot or Lowe's .  Put a rolled up kitchen towel in two of the pans and fill the bottom of the largest other pan wit the lava rock.  Fill all three half full of water and you now have the Mega Steam!  Don't worry the towels won't burn  but make sure your face is away from the oven door as you open it to put the bread on the steel.  No sense burning the skin off your face in my book :-0

HappyHighwayman's picture
HappyHighwayman

So steam = crunchier crust?

 

 

fotomat1's picture
fotomat1

prior to placing it in the oven...Baking Steel may rust with the intro of too much steam. That is why I only use the steel for pizza and a good stone for bread.

HappyHighwayman's picture
HappyHighwayman

All my stones end up breaking eventually

 

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Just be aware that you may wind up destroying your oven, especially if it has new-fangled electronics.

I have no first-hand experience with this, but I would definitely ask the manufacturer of my oven if they thought could harm the oven (assuming I don't spill water directly on the hot glass)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Lucy says once the warranty has expired, about 30 seconds after the oven is installed,  have at it.  I've been trying for years to get a new oven but Big Old Betsy is pretty tough.and won't give up the ghost easily.  I may have to bring the garden hose in the house.... 

HappyHighwayman's picture
HappyHighwayman

I'll be careful thanks for the tip.

I did use steam last night BTW, I used rolled up towels in two baking pans...but I only put them in 30 seconds before the bread, and I baked @ 450. I guess temp too low, not enough time to heat the water.

When I opened the oven a ton of steam came blasting out so I know I got some...and the bread was great, just not the crust.

 

HappyHighwayman's picture
HappyHighwayman

Lava rocks are cheap! I just ordered 7 lbs.

 

 Is there any upside to using a hand-held steam cleaner to pump the oven full of steam too or is that just a waste ?

 

sirrith's picture
sirrith

Why not use both?  I put my double dutch oven (same thing as your combo cooker, just bigger), on top of my baking steel.  An alternative would be to put the bigger half of the combo cooker inverted on the baking steel. 

HappyHighwayman's picture
HappyHighwayman

I ordered a hand held steamer and a metal buffet tray for $60 and will drill a hole in it and try the steamer method.

 

 

sirrith's picture
sirrith

I just did this as well.