The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What's your steaming method of choice??

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NYamateur's picture
NYamateur

What's your steaming method of choice??

Ive been experimenting lately with some steaming methods and Im wonder what your go-to method is.  So far I think I like the lava rock/cast iron pan method.  what do you guys think?

Also what do you think about using a pressure cooker or clothing iron to spray steam into th oven, crazy and stupid or does this idea have potential worth investigating?

 

 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

The last couple of months I've been using a cast iron pan and a cup of hot water. Simple, easy, reliable, and relatively safe.

For a while I experimented with the Steam Maker Bread Maker Kit, which includes a steam gun. I think it did make my crust a little bit thinner and crisper, but not enough that I bother using it most of the time. Other folks who have purchased it seem to be getting more mileage out of it though.

Barkalounger's picture
Barkalounger

I have a big cast iron skillet.  I preheat my oven with the skillet on the lowest rack and the stone on the rack above it.  I toss a cup of hot water in first thing, then repeat it two minutes later.  A few minutes after that, I remove the skillet and lower the temp.

gt's picture
gt

A big cast iron skillet filled with river rocks works good for me. I've always thought it was a whole lot easier to steam an electric oven versus a gas oven due to the extra venting in a gas oven.

My setup is half way down in this thread:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/1733

 

 

martyn brown's picture
martyn brown

"For a while I experimented with the Steam Maker Bread Maker Kit, which includes a steam gun."

I saw that advertised and seeing how I already had a steam gun(Penguin £19.00p.) I found an old large stainless steel bowl, drilled a hole near the top and followed the instructions on their website. The difference is amazing.

swtgran's picture
swtgran

If it is not a round loaf I love the Baparoma Steamer Baker.  Crusts are beautiful.  For round, I like to use my cast iron fryer with a lid and don't steam other than what happens with the lid on.  Terry  

edh's picture
edh

I've tried any number of combinations of pans, hot, cold, and frozen water but in my gas oven, they've all resulted in a nice cloud of steam that immediately comes out the top of the oven.

The only way I can get a decent crust is using Susan's magic bowl method. I've switched to a roasting pan to allow for a greater range of shapes, but otherwise it's the same.

The only thing I haven't yet tried is the homemade Steam Maker described above, but I've considered it more than once. I suspect it's only a matter of time before curiosity gets the better of my natural penuriousness and I buy a steamer and sacrifice a bowl...

edh

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

If you use the "magic bowl" method, do you still also bother with steaming? Isn't the evaporation from the dough while baking supposed to supply sufficient steam which is trapped by the bowl?

Do you preheat the oven or do you use the cold start method?

Do you have an electric or gas oven?

thanks.. 

edh's picture
edh

Hi Subfuscpersona,

I don't bother to steam with the magic bowl; the moisture comes from the dough like you said. I have on occasion sprayed the loaf before covering it, but I can't say I saw any difference.

As far as preheating, I'm sort of betwixt and between. In the winter I have an insanely cold kitchen, so I tend to use a stone and preheat because I like warming up the kitchen! Most of the time though, I bake on a sheet, but still preheat for about 15 minutes first. I've been too chicken to try starting completely cold as I have a pretty wimpy oven and I'm afraid it will take to long to warm up, especially with a cold roasting pan covering the loaf.

My oven is the lowest end gas oven that Sears had for sale about 6 years ago.

edh

NYamateur's picture
NYamateur

I guess I was reading too quickly the first time and I missed this post.  What exactly is this method about?

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

I couldn't see that anyone had answered your question so I hope this isn't redundant. I use a stone, preheated at 500* for an hour, place the slashed loaf onto the stone and cover it with a stainless steel bowl rinsed with hot water. The bowl is removed after 20 minutes, very carefully. I know that Susan from San Diego came up with this idea and used a Pyrex bowl. The ss isn't as much fun as you can't watch the bread rise, but it is easier to handle and probably safer. I would hate to drop a hot glass bowl! Hope you will give this a try, A.

Susan's picture
Susan

Roasting PanDutch OvenBoule Baked Under Bowl

The "oven within an oven" concept. It works well, however you accomplish it.

Susan from San Diego

P.S. Thanks, Annie!

NYamateur's picture
NYamateur

thanks for the info

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

the no-knead recipe. Think of it more as a cloche. You are kind of creating a micro-steam oven for your loaf. The bowl has water droplets on it, it is placed over the loaf...the water steams. You remove the bowl to crisp the crust.

NYamateur's picture
NYamateur

for me the only thing innovative about the now infamous no-knead recipe was the way in which the author used the bread's own moisture  as a method for providing steam.  That is essentially what is going on here , no?

 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

I was thinking on a different tangent..yeah the method of steaming is essentially the same.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Susan, I still get a thrill when I lift the bowl and find a beautifully risen loaf, and I think of you each time! I have been wondering how you use your oblong baker - do you use both parts? I have been checking the thrifts with no luck yet but hope to find one some day. Off to the mailbox in (almost) San Diego type sun, but it is still chilly and it snowed all day last Friday. My red Rhododendron flowers were all frozen and ruined on Monday night, and so it goes, A.

Susan's picture
Susan

I agree, isn't it fun!?!

Yes, I do use both parts of the roaster, but you could certainly use just the top on a stone or a baking sheet. The bottom is very heavy aluminum while the top is lighter-weight aluminum. I've baked two small boules or two batards in it; also a big "bicycle seat" (triangle loaf, below). On the other hand, I've probably most often used the Pyrex Visions DO that I also found at a thrift. Lowering a boule into the DO on a wide, rather long strip of parchment works just great. I have given up using my stone, as the roaster bottom or the oven tray work well, and I don't have to preheat as long (~20 minutes). The usual batch of dough here starts with 500g flour, and I end up making two boules. My fav part is the crust, and I get more crust with smaller loaves. Plus, I get to give one away and we eat the other, and then I can make more.  Yahoo!

Pinwheel Slash

So sorry about your rhodies. I hate it when that happens.

Susan from San Diego

metropical's picture
metropical

seems like I might try my clouche for a single loaf and skip the steam once, to see how that goes.

 

give me liberty and a 5lb bag of flour

dougal's picture
dougal

Above 100C (212F) water vapour is invisible. (For the pedantic thats at sealevel, standard atmospheric pressure.)

Really, stuff less than 100C won't do as much for you in the oven. OK, maybe a little bit condensing out on your loaf isn't going to hurt - BUT the important thing to recognise is that "foggy" visible steam means that it must be below 100C/212F.And in oven terms, that's cold.

It may be satisfyingly visible, but its not as effective.

This is at its most obvious when folks use ice cubes. Visible cold fog for as long as the ice lasts. "Steam" but not actually helpful. And, guess what, cooling the oven.

Its kinda similar with spray misting. You get visible steam. And when it disappears, people want to re-open the oven (cooling the oven again) and spraying some more.

Hot moisture/humidity is what makes the difference to the bread.

Not the fact that its cold enough to be visible.

Masonry ovens may be swabbed out, but while the visible fog disappears almost instantly, the humidity remains - it isn't all vented straight out through the door. Its just heated up beyond 100C/212F and therefore gone invisible.

 

Personally, I use a heavy, wide pan (maybe I should add some rocks), and heat it dry with the oven. I switch off the oven fan momentarily while I load the bread, then put an approx cupful of boiling water in the pan (so minimising the chilling the oven), close the door and switch the oven (and fan) on again.

I remove the pan (fan running) after about 1/3 of the bake time whether or not there is any water remaining. This drops humidity and temperature for the rest of the bake (I adjust the temperature setting, if needed, after the pan is out).

This should give me higher humidity, continuously, for the whole of the "oven spring" period.

Without my concerning myself whether or not I can see "steam" in there.

Even if the oven leaks hot and humid air, the presence of the hot wet/boiling pan means that the lost humidity is constantly being replaced - until you take the pan away!

bnom's picture
bnom

This is the first discussion I've seen about the different qualities of steam.  It explains why I'm getting better results from simply using an old broiler pan (the perforated holes on top seem to slow the evaporation process) than former attempts with spray bottle and ice cubes.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Like most folks here, I use a cup of boiling water and a cast iron skillet. One thing I've learned the hard way, though.

Make sure you lay the oven door flat and cover the glass with a towel while you pour the water in the skillet. Dropping water on unprotected glass can shatter it.

NYamateur's picture
NYamateur

theres a lot of great ideas here. thank you!

 

Russ's picture
Russ

I was just working on composing a question about steaming when I found this thread - now I have several questions :)

I've recently decided to stop using my cast iron for steaming as I was finding that it was burning the seasoning off of my favorite skilet. Yesterday I spent a bunch of time scrubbing rust off of the outside of the skillet. I guess I neglect the outside of my cast iron in general, but I don't want to go through that again anytime soon. The inside was still ok, but the seasoning layer looked a bit thin and I could see some mineral scum left by the water boiling off. I scrubbed it lightly and cooked some bacon in it, now it looks ok.

I bought a shallow steel mixing bowl recently for the purpose of replacing my skillet as a steaming pan, but it (of course) doesn't retain nearly as much heat and so the water boils off very slowly. I guess I need to try starting with water boiled on the stove (probably a better idea anyway).

On to the questions...

I see people talking about using rocks to help retain heat. This seems like a good idea, but isn't there some risk of the rocks exploding? I know that's something I heard warnings about as a kid at camp - rocks thown into the fire sometimes explode because of the retained moisture expanding without a way to escape. Are there particular types of rocks that are more likely to be safe? Are there any rocks I should watch out for that might emit nasty stuff when heated (lead, mercury, etc)?

I got my first baking stone yesterday, a Fibrament. The directions that came with it included a six hour process to slowly bake off any moisture in the stone. With this in mind, do I need to take any special care in steaming my oven with the stone in there? Also, it strikes me that generating steam at the bottom of the oven below the stone is going to steam the bottom of the stone a lot more than it will the loaf that's sitting on top of the stone. This is especailly considering that the stone is kept very low in the oven and only lets air (steam) pass around the edges of the stone and the oven vents steam from the top. What are others who use baking stones doing? How is it working for you?

Russ

metropical's picture
metropical

I use a large pyrex pan that I heat up while the oven gets to heat.  There's a thin layer of water in  it just for protection.  When the temp is up, I put in the loaf and half fill the pan with boiling water.  I give a small tug to the pan to get an extra burst of steam.  Then I close the oven until the bread is done.

Works for me.  The ice idea is interesting. 

give me liberty and a 5lb bag of flour

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Be very careful with Pyrex. I had one shatter about a foot from my face while trying something similar. The water I poured into it was hot, but not hot enough.

dougal's picture
dougal

Testing Pyrex like this is asking for trouble.

Just a question of when.

Any slight scratch makes it much more susceptible to shattering on 'thermal shock' (sudden temperature change).

This is not a task well suited to Pyrex. Really.

 

 

The point of using a heavy iron pan (and added rocks) is to *store* lots of heat in their 'thermal mass' -- so that you can draw on that stored heat to boil off water for a longer time with as little impact as possible on the oven temperature.

My mention of ice was to explain why using it was a *bad* idea.

It doesn't look like I succeded!

Liam's picture
Liam

I use a recycled crummy metal pan, which originally contained take out lasagne. I add about 1 1/2 cups of ice cubes, 10 minutes before the bread goes in. The "steam tray" lives on the bottom rack of my domestic oven and stays there while I preheat so it is very hot when the ice goes in. Actually, on thinking about it, I may try moving it to the floor of my oven using the same method. Both ways should and seem to provide good humidity as there is ample room for air/humidity circulation in the oven. My stone is located somewhere just about the middle of the oven. I preheat my oven for 1 hour at 450 degrees F before the bread goes in. This seems to give me good oven spring with little risk. I don't see any visible mist and the oven is kept at a (relatively) constant temperature by the oven's temperature control. When the bake is done, there is still noticeable humidity in the oven, which is good enough for me.

My stone is a plain old cheapie pizza stone, bought at a housewares store for under $10 CDA

I used to spritz the oven with a spray bottle until I shattered the oven light by accidentally spraying it, that was the end of that adventure. I had to become a human pretzel to replace the bulb!

I like the ice method, it works very well. I don't have to keep opening and closing the oven after the bread goes in. I raise my breads on parchment paper, using a baking sheet as the peel. I now raise them under a tea towel for at least half of the rise as I can get a better slash. I slide the bread directly onto the stone. I do all this as quickly as safe handling will permit (ie. so I don't burn myself!). I don't remove the ice/water containing pan at all.

As for the pressure cooker or iron, well all I can ask is Why??? It seems overly pretentious and dangerous.

As for Dougal's post it sounds like he is the proud owner of more elaborate equipment than most of us amateur bakers and that he is much more detail oriented.

Following the advice of the author of "Bread Alone" gives me a really nice loaf, far superior to any of the chi-chi bakeries in my city - yes I admit it- the loaf suits my tastes. I am not big on crusty loaves, so I brush them with butter or (seasoned or plain)olive oil as soon as they come out of the oven. I am trying to re-create the yummy breads we ate 30 years ago on a trip to Europe with my family. The "secret" is: using a rye sourdough; or a levain of organic flour, sea- salt and room temperature spring water; filtered, distilled or tap water makes a poorer levain and thus a poorer loaf. Yes I have tried all the bread and water combinations too. I have been baking my own bread for almost 30 years and have only been satisfied since I found the Bread Alone baking book - Yes there is a website.

For me baking bread is a decadent pleasure, but I am also shallow enough that I want a method that does not include temperatures of this and that. I do admit to using a digital thermometer so I know if the bread is doing it's thing at around 78 degrees F. This tells me why it is rising quickly or slowly. Other than that it is a visual, feel and scent driven process....pretty basic and simple to my way of thinking.

Oh and since the "Bread Alone" moment I almost never buy bread!

I like the Bread Bible recipes, but man alive those 4 and 5 page recipes are just way too convoluted for me. When I do use them I like the result, but my head aches, just reading them!

 

dougal's picture
dougal

<blockquote>As for Dougal's post it sounds like he is the proud owner of more elaborate equipment than most of us amateur bakers and that he is much more detail oriented.</blockquote>

Way way way off target on the first point. !! (Sadly)

But the second, well, it just might be a bullseye.

My professional experience is that details are the things that prevent stuff working ... so its important to get them right, so stuff does work. 

The standard quote is 'The Devil is in the Detail", but I prefer Mies van der Rohe's version "God is in the Detail"

metropical's picture
metropical

in using the cast iron, does the ice or water damage the surface at all or the seasoning in this use?  Or should I get another one for this purpose?

 

give me liberty and a 5lb bag of flour

Barkalounger's picture
Barkalounger

I do a quick reseason after I use my cast iron skillet and it's fine.  BTW, I find I get much better steam from a cup of hot water than ice cubes.

sphealey's picture
sphealey

When I was baking in the 350-450 deg.F range the seasoning on the cast iron wasn't much affected, but when I went over 450 deg.F and started using more water the seasoning burned off and the pan started to rust.

To address this problem, and also the above mentioned point of damaging a good cast iron surface, I kept my eyes open at garage sales for a used cast iron frying pan. My budget was up to $2.00 but my spouse as usual was sharper eye'd and a better bargainer so I ended up with one for 50 cents. It gets rusty; I ignore the rust until it starts staining the cupboard. Then I scrub the rust off with SOS and go for another 6 months with no worries.

sPh

LindyD's picture
LindyD

My (gas) oven is just a couple months old, is very well insulated, and I've found that a cup of hot water in the broiler pan I kept from my old stove works well. I do use a stone, preheat (the oven does this automatically and won't show the temp until the preheat is over) and always place a towel over the glass window on the oven door so I won't have to replace it should I get sloppy in my pouring technique!

I don't add any more water or mist after that first cup of water goes in. I agree with Doug that using ice just lowers the oven temp, as the ice must first be melted then converted into steam. I tried ice once and watched it turn into water when what I really wanted was instant steam. That experience, plus reading Peter Reinhart's caution against using ice, made me a convert to a cup of hot water.

metropical's picture
metropical

Guess I'll stick with boiled water and perhaps changes the vessel.

 

give me liberty and a 5lb bag of flour

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

Susan on April 2, 2008 wrote:
The "oven within an oven" concept. It works well, however you accomplish it.

What is the equipment in your photo (above)? Please be detailed and include size (length, width, height of cover) and (if possible) where you purchased it.

Do you make any adjustments to your recipe re. oven temp, preheating time, etc. when using this method.

Many thanks...SF

Susan's picture
Susan

It is simply an old, used roaster I bought at a thrift store, and that happens to fit in my oven. The maker is Wear-Ever, the bottom (No. 918) is heavy aluminum, the top (No. 818) is lighter-weight aluminum. Inside dimensions are 15 x 10.5 inches, overall height is 5.5 inches. I usually preheat the oven (with the roaster inside) for about 20 minutes at 480F and drop the temperature to 450F after the bread is in the oven. The roaster sits not on the lowest rack in my oven, but the next one up. Carefully remove the top after 15-20 minutes, and you will find a beautifully risen loaf all ready to be browned. About 10 minutes before the end of baking, I slightly open the oven door to let out the steam that's accumulated.

SF, whatever equipment you can find that will accommodate your loaves and stand up to the heat will work. The "magic bowl," a roaster, a clay baker, a dutch oven all do the same thing: keep the moisture that's escaping from the loaf close to the dough, enabling it to rise without the crust hardening too quickly. 

Thanks for asking, and I hope you find something that works for you.

Susan from San Diego

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

The ovens in the sourdough bakeries that supplied San Francisio - North Beach bistros in times past were built from fire brick and were gas fired. A supply of water was piped through a control valve into the oven emptying into a cast iron basin. The oven, once up to heat, was then charged with the bread loaves until full. The oven door was closed and the water valve was cracked open and steam vapor would fill the oven. The valve was then closed after about 7 minutes or so.

The closest that I've come to this without building my own custom oven is to place an old cast iron frying pan in the bottom shelf of the cold oven before preheat. Once the bread is placed on the baking shelf a couple of handfulls of ice are thrown into the pan and the oven door closed. Taking the time to poor water into a hot pan isn't recommended from a safety point of view as the blast of steam from the water hitting the pan is fairly explosive while the ice cube method greatly reduces this risk and will maintain steam emission for several minutes. The heat lost while the oven door is open is another consideration with the ice cube toss method a clear winner. I impede the vent on my oven with a cotton hand towel during the steam phase removing it after 5 or 6 minutes. The fry pan will rust as high temperature water vapor is very corrosive. I have a supply of ground pistachio nut shells that I use with a little water to scour the surface till clean and polished. Of course you could leave it in this condition if this is all you're going to use for. I would not use good enameled cast iron pan for this.

Bonne Cuisson,

Wild-Yeast

perfectloop's picture
perfectloop

First, Thanks for all the input on this forum.  I have been lurking while I teach myself to bake bread.  


I tried the magic bowl using a cheap aluminum pan and I could see that it helped, but I knew a proper bowl would be the thing to find.  Today I finally found one and tried it with some trepidation.  The instructions from IKEA said that it the "STIL" should not be placed into a hot oven, but I figured for the price I'd give it a try.  


The Stil is an unglazed earthenware vessel shaped like a roasting pan.  I soaked the Stil in water before covering my bread with it and I got a great open crumb and shiny glazed surface.  All for $29. I suppose it might crack someday, but it did well on it's inaugural loaf so anyone looking for a great "magic bowl" give it a try.


http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/80087711


 


mike

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Mike, you beat me to it. I was mulling over the idea of buying this cheap alternative everytime i visited IKEA, but declined due to the size and shape limitations. But this clay still will surely do the job for 1 loaf. post some pictures please!


khalid