The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

This might be a science question

SugarOwl's picture
SugarOwl

This might be a science question

This might be a science thing, or I need more coffee, but here goes. If steam is necessary, and you leave the top on a dutch oven for only the first 15 minutes of the bake, then why not use a slow cooker to steam it then put the bread in the oven?

I imagine this is only good if you are baking one small loaf, but I have cooked bread before in the slow cooker and while it was not crispy it was tender. So I wonder if one could get the best of both worlds since I can't add steam to my oven (small kids like to hover, not risking steam burns) and my dutch oven is a cheap enamel that is showing signs of rust around the edge. I need to get a new dutch oven, but if I could steam it in the slow cooker, while the oven preheats with the dutch oven in it, then all I would need to do would be to drop it from one pan and into the other. That's my reasoning anyways. What is the science behind it that says I'm wrong before I ruin perfectly good bread?

wheatbeat's picture
wheatbeat

In addition to promoting the Maillard reaction on the crust, steam prevents setting of that crust while the crumb expands inside. In other words, it improves your oven spring. I think a slow cooker is not likely to give you the rise you are looking for because there would not be enough heat early on. Also, moving your partially baked loaf is likely to create other problems. Please search on TFL - there are many excellent techniques for getting steam introduced into your oven.

SugarOwl's picture
SugarOwl

I know of some ways to get steam in my oven, however I can't really do that right now. I didn't know that it improved oven spring, I thought it was mostly a crust thing. I was thinking of just transferring the parchment it would bake on (without disturbing the dough) to the dutch oven. I think my slow cooker gets to 320F, so definitely not 450F. I did see on here where someone used a grill steamer to get steam in their oven, that might be my best bet if not using a dutch oven. I'll look into a few dutch ovens and get more coffee while I'm at it. Most I've seen is people doing steam on electric, but my stove is gas and the fire is at the bottom. I'm a bit concerned about that, but I don't know much about gas ovens other than the temperature is on target. I mostly bake muffins, cookies, and general dinner fare.

Benito's picture
Benito

I think that you’d compromise on the oven spring without that initial blast of high heat.  Your slow cooker won’t get hot enough and I would guess, without having tried it, that you’ll get a flatter denser bread than you might want by starting out in the slow cooker.

SugarOwl's picture
SugarOwl

That's another good point. I usually do half whole wheat, so denser is not a good thing. Still trying to work that part out. My last loaf was good, no crust since it was a sandwich loaf, but a bit too dense for my husband who likes the fluffy kind.

ciabatta's picture
ciabatta

I experimented with something similar!  Not a slow cooker but a steamer. Turns out you only want a right amount of steam. Too much steam will make for a rubbery crust. 

see my experiment here

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/64722/toaster-oven-sourdough-big-success#comment-463153 

I suppose if I do a slower boil in the steamer and for a shorter time I might achieve better results. I have not gone further. I realized that water boils at 212F and the temperature will not get much above that in a steamer where as in an oven it can. 

SugarOwl's picture
SugarOwl

 I wondered if someone had already experimented with it. Looks like a dutch oven or a roaster lid on a pan is the way to go, now to find a tall enough roaster lid, probably cheaper than a dutch oven.