A steaming experiment
During my short baking career, I've baked my loaves directly on my pizza stone, and steamed using a large baking pan underneath my stone. I read in one of the forums that the steam may cool the stone; and though my crust has always been to my liking, I thought I'd see if a change in steaming method would produce any improvements in browning.
The loaves below were shaped and scored identically. The loaf furthest away from the steam (the one with amputated heels) did not open up at all, in contrast to the loaf closest to the steam opening up nicely. Given the unequal results, I will go back to my former steaming method.
The big however here, is that I removed the steaming pan from the oven after 12 minutes...which I think was responsible for producing a nice brown crust on a recipe that I've been having a hard time getting to brown well.
So, for me and my oven, a large steaming pan underneath the stone does not seem to affect my loaves adversely in any way, though I am going to start removing the steaming pan after the 12-minute mark for better browning.
In my continuing quest for a more open crumb, and after much help from everyone here, I was quite pleased with today's results. I used the KA tangy sourdough recipe, unbleached AP flour, all room-temp ferment (versus part cold/part room temp), and two stretch-and-folds during the second ferment.