The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking rolls in sealed vessel

Sarah Paire's picture
Sarah Paire

Baking rolls in sealed vessel

Hi all - I've been struggling with a bread baking dilemma for weeks and would love some advice. The problem is I have a large oven and generating enough steam in there to bake mini breads is proving to be a real challenge. 

So I figured I'd make a baking vessel to bake the rolls in. I got two heavy aluminum hi-side sheet pans (18 x 13" x2") thinking that clamping them together (one reversed over the other) would make a great baking vessel. 

I'm using a no-knead recipe (3 cups flour + 4oz beer + 6 oz water + 1/4-tsp yeast + 1 1/2-tsp salt ). It's a high humidity dough and this recipe works perfectly as a full size boule in my cast iron dutch oven - including starting from a cold oven. I get a fabulous rise and a very crispy crust. But making rolls is the challenge. 

For these photos the first dough rise was 11 hours, then I folded and portioned the dough into several small Fat Daddio's cake pans (5" diameter x 2"H). (Without the Fat Daddio's the dough just spreads out before it rises.) To generate some steam inside the vessel, I also put in a ramekin with water. 

The shaped rise was 40 minutes. Then I sealed the vessel and baked the lot starting with a cold oven, temperature set to 425F.

The resulting mini breads didn't rise as much as I though they might. And the bread scoring more or less disappeared. Is there not enough steam? Should I start with a pre-heated oven? Is there a better solution to solve this? Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

 dough after first rise

Baked mini breads


idaveindy's picture

Welcome to TFL!

First, congrats on your very good description and photos that clearly describe what's going on.  Most newcomers usually don't describe/illustrate things so well.

This reminds me of a similar situation of someone who used a cake-form  inside a dutch oven, and started out with a cold DO and cold oven, too.

Your present set-up "triple insulates" the dough from the heat: parchment paper, cups, then the sheet pans.  So the dough is still fermenting for a long time before it starts to actually bake. The oven has to come up to temp, and then it takes a bit more for the heat to penetrate all that insulation and get to the dough.

Hence... The dough gets very overfermented, and then bakes too slowly.  

There  may still be issues with the formula.... but I'm pretty confident that you'll get improved results if you pre-heat both the oven and the outer sheet-pans.  I don't see a need to pre-heat the clips.

A common technique of pre-heating is to pre-heat the oven to 20 degrees F higher than the intended baking temperature,  because you lose at about 20 degrees F when you open the oven door.

The next problem is putting room temp water in a cold oven. This will make stream only in the latter part of the bake, which just messes things up.  

Your "clam shell" set-up likely keeps in enough moisture, so try it without the added water next time.  

In the future, if you need to add more stream, it needs to be boiling water, in a hot pan/container, in a hot oven, so that it makes steam at the _beginning_ of the bake, not in the latter part.

Good luck!

Sarah Paire's picture
Sarah Paire

Thanks so much for this great reply!

I will definitely pre-heat both the oven and outer sheet pans. Will the pans lose a lot of heat while I'm loading in the mini cake pans and clipping it all together? It does take a couple of minutes to do that.

I'll pre-heat to 450F and keep it there until everything is loaded in. Should I then keep it at 450F for a few minutes more before dropping the heat down to 425F for the covered bake?

Also should I mist the breads before sealing the vessel? Mist them after removing the lid? Or mist the underside of the lid pan?

idaveindy's picture

As to your other questions, I can't really say.  

Generally, it is said to change only one thing at a time, so you know if it made a positive or negative result.  Hence, it will take several bakes to test and try out all the little tweaks.

Start out with no water, and no misting, and then experiment on future bakes.  Your situation/formula sounds unique, so only you will be able to figure out what works best for your formula.

also, generally speaking, you only want to steam a loaf of bread at the very beginning, not when you take the lid off the baking vessel. 

Please post  future photos on this post or on a blog post. Your beer bread sounds interesting. 

Sarah Paire's picture
Sarah Paire

Will do! Thank you!