The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Convection Oven and Steam

Carb Addict's picture
Carb Addict

Convection Oven and Steam

I know convection is more efficient but I wonder if it vents the steam more as circulation occurs. I have switched from Dutch oven to just using a stone with steam generated by a pan of lava rocks. Great results although now I have to be careful not to burn the bread! My first attempt was yesterday yielded very good results (although did burn the crust a bit). OTOH, I'm thinking this will make GREAT pizza char :)

So, does using convection vs conventional oven settings make a difference when using the lava rock generated steam method?

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

In a word, yes.  Decidedly different results would be expected if convection were used during steaming, compared to applying convection after steaming, or not using it at all. 

Think about it:  the primary purpose of steaming a bread oven is to keep the surface of the dough moist and extensible so that it will not inhibit oven spring.  The effect of convection is to move hot air past surfaces, effectively reducing the moisture available on the dough surface when it enters the oven.  The hot moving air of a convection oven will not only dry the surface, but bake it.  It is hard to imagine that you wouldn't observe a denser crumb in a bread baked with convection during steaming than one baked with steam in a static oven.  Convection effectively defeats the purpose of steaming.

Many/most home bakers turn on convection, if available, only during the post-steam phase of the bake, to vent residual steam and safely crisp the crust once crumb expansion is complete or subjectively sufficient.  I've noticed that the timing of that final convection phase varies greatly among bakers.  Some turn it on immediately after the steam phase, others only at the end.  I turn on convection only for the final 10 min, having turned down the temp to 430˚F at the end of steaming,10 min earlier.

One further point, if you're still with me.  I've found that proper oven steaming serves other purposes besides just optimizing crumb structure.  So I am pretty obsessive about creating a completely moisture-saturated environment for dough when it initially hits the stone.  See my setup here, since modified to create greater, continuous static steam saturation without adding ice cubes.  Our oven is utterly humidity-saturated for the first 20 min of every bake.  I am convinced that the provision of an envelope of maximal moisture during this phase enables correspondingly abundant water-requiring Maillard chemistry and thus the development of more Maillard flavors during the post-steam phase, resulting in a luxuriously complex roasty-toasty flavor profile.

Happy baking, and steaming.

Tom

rudirednose's picture
rudirednose

Hi CA

... I reduce the oven temp by 20 to 30° against the conventional oven settings! Thats all! ;-)

The transfer of heat to the goods heated is a lot better in convection mode than in normal mode!

Good luck!

rudi