The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Nuovo Forno

JoeVa's picture

Nuovo Forno

Two months ago I bought a new oven so I had to learn how it works, I mean what is the best setup for sourdough heart baking. This led me to change my setup: no more covered baking!

Have you ever seen the incredible oven spring, great crust color, beautiful ears you have with a professional steam injected deck oven? Just take a look at these photos from Wally's excellent post "My Excellent Adventures at King Arthur Flour".


                                                      [James scoring Pain au Levain]


                                  [Jeffrey at the oven]


Don't you think this is incredible? How can this "flat dough" spring up so well? It must me the oven+steam system!

Here is one small (470g) test loaf, nothing special, just a white liquid sourdough and stone grounded Italian Tipo1 flour - very close to T80 French flour - a medium/soft+ dough at 66% hydration. I didn't take too much care of the dough because I was focused on my setup, but ...




So, the new setup is simple: free steam in the oven generated with a pre-heated bread loaf pan filled with stones and a wet towel. Preheat the oven at 250°C for about 45 minutes with the stone and the pan inserted (the pan is on the same level with the stone) and put the wet towel in the pan just before inserting the bread in the oven. My oven is very well insulated and it traps all the steam, moreover the top heating element work well and doesn't get fire-hot. When I baked this dough with the lid it was very flat with no ears ...

I think I have finally removed THE variable that gave me somewhat inconsistent baking result.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

of the oven set up.  Cool how the doors just get pushed down from the peel to open.  Pretty bread!

LindyD's picture

That's beautiful bread, Joe.  I've got a gas oven which is well insulated, but seems to vent quickly.

I'll try your wet towel approach today - have tried everything else.  It would seem that the towel will release moisture longer than the hot water I add to the hot pan, which pretty much evaporates within a minute or so.

JoeVa's picture

I never had a gas oven but you are right, in my case the wet towel release moisture longer and better. Remember to remove the pan after 10-12 minutes.


Candango's picture

Thanks for the photos, Joe.  Very impressive.  I have a question about your bread pan filled with stones and a towel on the same level as the baking stone.  I have a "standard" American electric oven with a large (16 x 14) baking stone on the lowest shelf in the oven, just above the bottom element.  There is not really much more room on the same shelf for a bread pan.  Also, do you use a special type of stone or stones in the breadpan or just simple gravel or garden rocks?  Do you have a photograph of your setup?  I would love to see it.  Thanks. Candango

JoeVa's picture

Here a photo, I hope it helps you:


As you can see there is not much room for me too! No special stones.


DonD's picture

Great oven spring and the scoring and ears are amazing. Nice blistery crust too. Thanks for sharing your technique.


Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss


Your bread looks wonderful, congratulations on working things out.  I'm trying to visualize what you do with the wet towel as part of your steaming method and I'm not sure I understand how or where you use it. Can you please elaborate? Any pictures, by chance?



JoeVa's picture

I place the wet towel into the hot pan just when I put the dough in the oven. HERE the picture.


wally's picture

Joe-  That takes me back a year.  I'm about to return this month for a 2 day course with Dan Wing on baking in wood fired ovens. 

Your pain au levain are absolutely beautiful - crumb and crust!  Oven spring really is magic and every time I load a 'flat' piece of dough into my oven I have that momentary fear that that's what will come out.  But with steam and the right proofing, magic wins out.

Beautiful batard!


PS- my leaky (steam leaky) gas oven still poses a challenge for baguettes, but I've had good success with batards.

JoeVa's picture

Ciao Larry, I'm so jealous!

Guess what's the building behind me in my "personal picture"! When I will be ready I will revel this "mistery" and I will show you the whole photo ... Please, please keep me update and tell me what you will learn in this great course!


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Very nice Giovanni,

Good steam really does make a big difference, and every oven presents its own challenges.


nicodvb's picture

keep and release even more water? and be safer, too?

Great oven! And the bread come out very well, too.

ananda's picture

Ciao Giovanni,

It's great to see a home baker able to concentrate time and effort into the oven part of the baking process.....and, achieve the result sought after.

To achieve that level of oven spring is fantastic.   I have achieved it many times, myself: only to cut the bread open and realise that the dough was insufficiently strong, and there are some very large holes near the top of the bread where the dough has not been strong enough to cope with the burst!!!!

I am thinking your loaves look quite small, in terms of scaling weight.   I think this is a very wise move for the sort of bread you are seeking to make.

By the way, the cutting prior to baking is extremely impressive.

Very lovely work, as always



ps it was a great reminder seeing Messrs Hamelman and MacGuire.   Larry's post is excellent indeed!

JoeVa's picture

About the scaling weight, you are right, ~500g is small.

I usually go for 650g:1000g for my sourdough bread. This time I scaled down just because I wanted 3 loaf from my batch for a better testing of the steaming technique.


dmsnyder's picture

Clearly, your new oven and steaming method work great together.

How "wet" is your towel? I gather it doesn't get completely dry and scorch before you remove it.


JoeVa's picture

I squeeze a bit the wet towel and when I put it in the pan I add about 1/4 cup of water, then immediatly close the door. Yes, after 12 minutes it's still wet, it doesn't scorch.


trailrunner's picture

how wet and how large is the toweL? Folded and placed in pan? Also I wondered then if you are using reg. bake and not convection? I had great results with misting the loaves I recently baked and then placing the cover on the heavy dutch ovens I was using. Got great spring and ears. Always trying to learn. Yours is really gorgeous. c

JoeVa's picture

Look at David's reply. Yes, folded and placed so that it's uniform distributed in the pan.

Obviously I start without convection, just few seconds two or three times during the steaming period (for steam distribution) and then, when I remove the pan, I switch on convection and I try to end the bake in a dry oven.


LindyD's picture

Hi Giovanni, 

After trying the wet towel approach, I think it has possibilites in my (nonconvection) oven.  Can't tell yet because in the rush of loading the bread, covering the oven glass, pulling out the pan (which is on my lower rack), and flopping the sopping wet towel into the pan, I forgot to turn down the oven from the nearly 500F (260C) temp, so my baguette cuts didn't open as fully as they may have without that fast initial bake.  But they opened - something that has not happened very often.

I can say that the towel was still emitting steam after ten minues, when I removed the pan.  That in itself is amazing in my oven.  

I plan to pick up a metal loaf pan and move it to the same shelf as the stone, as in your setup.  I may even try a double steam whammy and add water to the lower pan and the towel to the top pan.

Thanks for sharing your technique.

SylviaH's picture

I like your steaming method, it turned out such a gorgeous loaf.  Steaming with towels in a wfo oven is discussed on a blog I read a while back at the Forno Bravo wfo oven making site here in CA.  I think the method is similar to the one you are using only without the stones.  The towels are soaked with water and rolled up jellyroll fashion and placed on a cookie type sheet pan.


liztree's picture

Hello! I am so excited to try your towel steaming method. I have a gas convection (brand new- first new oven ever!!!!)

Not sure please clarify. Do you start with convection, swirch to non-convection and then back??? also I have been wondering if all the steaming i do could hurt the convection mechanics??

thanks again. Also do you block the venting that your oven may have???

Thanks liz tree

JoeVa's picture

Hello Liz.

You should start baking in a humidified hot oven to achieve a good oven spring.

It means you should turn off the vent because it tends to dry out the steam. This for the first 15-20 minutes or till the loaf reaches the maximum volume.

Then remove the steam and complete the baking. Now I use convection but in MY OVEN because it gives me a better crust. You should watch and learn how you oven works.

Remember to end the baking in a dry oven or the crust won't be crusty and fragrant.

The steam does not hurt the convection mechanics.


liztree's picture

OK Great!!!! I used the towel steam method this morning. I had nice spring and great lusterous( is that a word) brown coloring!!!!!!

I took the steaming towel out after 10 min... but will try longer next time.

my crust is pretty crispy, but will try ending with convection.


There is no way to "turn oof" the vent. I think I could try to block it with foil or something and then unblock it after the steaming is done!!!


Thank you