The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Do you trap steam with an inverted pan/bowl? I have a question...

NV's picture

Do you trap steam with an inverted pan/bowl? I have a question...

I currently bake baguette-shaped sourdough loaves on a baking stone with a steam tray below and three spray mists during the first five minutes. This has produced delicious bread but after reading many posts from bakers who use either dutch ovens or an inverted pan/bowl to trap steam, I suspect these methods can offer even better results.

So, here's my question. For those who have tried BOTH methods - dutch oven and inverted pan/bowl - have you achieved superior results from one method over the other?

All things being equal, I'd prefer to use a full-size 6" deep hotel pan inverted over my large baking stone. That would allow me to bake two batards at once (and continue baking baguette/long loaves). 

 But I wonder if the large thermal mass, close heat from all sides, lack of reflective surface and tight seal of a dutch oven (especially, say, a Challenger bread pan) might offer an edge that an inverted SS pan (or bowl) just can't match in terms of the final results? 

I'd much prefer the flexibility of an inverted hotel pan, but my highest priority is getting the very best end product... even if I have to bake loaves one at a time. I'd be very grateful to hear the views of those who've tried both methods!
johnstoeckel's picture

I tried both -- a Lodge cast iron DO and inverted pan over a large baking stone.   Results for me we're about the same. 

However, I much preferred the inverted pan plus stone method.  As you noted this method is more flexible in terms loaf shape, size, and number. It is also safer IMO as I don't have to handle a hot, heavy DO. 

I preheat the stone in the oven, shape my loaf on parchment, slide the parchment and loaf onto the stone, and then cover with an aluminum turkey roasting pan.


jo_en's picture

I have used a Wilton mini loaf pan inverted over an identical pan holding a loaf dough. The fit was somewhat loose but the result was still a great(double) oven spring on even 93% whole wheat lean doughs.

The DO method is good too but requires a long oven preheat. You do get free form loaves though.

NV's picture

Thanks for the replies @johnstoeckel and @joe_n. Looking forward to hearing from others!

colinm's picture

I have also used both with good results. A cold Dutch oven also works so long as you have a baking sheet on a rack underneath, or use convection to avoid burning the bottom.

Currently I use an inverted hotel pan with a baking steel because it is the most convenient option.

Ming's picture

This is an interesting topic, as I have just placed an order for a full size hotel pan 4" tall for my baguettes and can't wait to try it out on either a baking steel or a stone. The only potential issue I see is to lift it off but if it works out then I will install some stainless handles on the pan. 

Kevin D's picture
Kevin D
  • I thought I invented the hotel pan method! I get a better crust with the DO, but I also want to make batards.  I put a couple small pans on the stone to raise the hotel pan  and give the bread room to rise.
NV's picture

A 6" deep hotel pan (and I've seen some 8" deep available as well) would seem to offer plenty of room for almost any loaf to rise. I'm likely to experiment with multiple methods and plan to try a 6-inch full-size pan.