I thought I had it..
So I've been slowly plodding along on my sourdough journey, have gotten a few decent bakes in so far. But one thing I struggle with is getting a proper rise - my best examples are still rather round and not exactly tall, like this
I can hardly get the massive ears I see all over the forum. I've tried everything - from underproofing to overproofing and in between, from large inoculations to small inoculations, from overnight retards of the bulk ferment or the final proof, from shaping loosely to shaping tightly.. nothing seems to work.
The only thing non-standard I do is the actual baking - because I don't possess a baking stone (nor want to waste the electricity to heat one up everytime I want to bake), nor do I possess a dutch oven, I bake uncovered on a sheet pan at the bottommost rack with a muffin cup of boiling water on the oven floor - this ensures the bottom heat radiates directly from the element to the dough, and also ensures the presence of steam in the oven. I was convinced that I had insufficient steam, and so I started using a greasepan with a shallow layer of boiling water at the top rack for the first 10-20 minutes, which filled the oven full of steam indeed but a curious thing happened: I got bread that looks like this
Completely flying-saucered, not to mention, my scores almost completely sealed themselves up. Curiously the bread crust was quite a fair bit darker than before, also all the cornflour I dusted on the surface had melded with the surface of the dough from all the steam. I thought maybe it was just that one time that I had overproofed, but then I redid the bread today, definitely underproofed if anything, and now have another flying saucer sitting on my table.
Edit: said flying saucer:
Should I just give up and buy a dutch oven, or is there something else I can do?
(For anyone wondering, my usual formula is 485g flour - any combination of about 75 white 25 wholewheat/rye - with a tiny inoculation of rye-wheat starter built into a 100% 140g levain, then the dough mixed at about 75% hydration, though recently I've been working with 80% hydration - 388ml total water - and 8.5g salt)