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Steam Injection – Home Solution (Updated 28th Aug.)

with 15 comments

Steam-injection is proabably the most sought-after feature in a bread oven. The ability to get a lot of water steam into the oven separates a professional oven from a home oven. The presence of water steam at the beginning of the baking process keeps the crust soft while it is undergoing its most dramatic changes. There are more things happening at the molecular level when water is sprayed onto the dough, that I cannot go into because of lack of knowledge, of course. So far, I have sprayed water into the oven using a bottle. I believe the days of doing that may have come to an end.

Why not use the dough’s moisture instead and trap it for a while, I was thinking on a slow Saturday afternoon. The idea of baking inside a closed bag, pot or pan is nothing new, so I have tweaked this approach a little and attempted an impromptu solution:

Steam Module Vers. 0.1 Beta

Steam Module Vers. 0.1 Beta

“That looks like a piece of tin foil”, you say. Why, yes, it does. Because it is a piece of tin foil.

Instructions on how to use the Steam Module Vers. 0.1 Beta: When your doughling is ready to be baked, cover it completely but loosely with the tin foil. Put everything into the oven, preferably onto a baking stone. Wait 1-2 minutes or more. Professional recipes will tell you when to open the steam vent, this is where you take the foil off. Behold the changes.

Heuristics: The foil shields the hot wind coming from the oven fan (if a fan oven is used) and traps the moisture that is coming from the heated dough for a while. Bread volume is increased, crust quality is potentially improved. Further test runs are called for.


Self-Steamed “40 Percent Caraway Rye” (without caraway) showing a nice crust.

Update. I’ve made a couple of rolls with this and another quick white loaf. Two things seem to be true: 1. Underproved breads do not seem to suffer from irregular crust bursts as much as before. This is because the crust stays supple longer. 2. Breads do not burn anymore. This (probably) is due to the additional water on / in the crust.

For a very soft crust, e.g. for sweet rolls, spray the dough with water, put the foil on top and leave it on for 5 minutes or longer.

Written by theinversecook

26 August 2008 at 00:57

15 Responses

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  1. @ Jude: I have tried with a couple of batards and they ran a little flat. Maybe a new improved Steam Module will see the light of day soon. With holes in it. :-)

    @ SteveB: I suspect I’m having more of those thermal irregularities than I am aware of. For example I don’t know where the hottest point on the baking stone is. Good thing I don’t need to be consistent in the quality like a professional bakery.

    theinversecook

    31 August 2008 at 02:12

  2. This is in line with the no-knead bread recipe in the dutch oven. Same principle, same result. Look it up. Hope it helps. There is also a clay pottery thingy called a “La Cloche Clay Baker” or something like that.
    Check it out. Both are excellent and are a must try for the bread baker.

    Ed

    11 December 2008 at 02:35

  3. Yes, it does come in many shapes and forms. I have also ecperimented with a heat-resistent baking bag, and it also gave excellent results. But the bag is not reusable, so that’s not a very good option.

    theinversecook

    11 December 2008 at 16:26

  4. A good suggestion to try, insert a pan/plate filled 3/4’s full of water. Do this prior to baking. During the baking cycle, water vapor will originate from the plate and increase moisture within the baking chamber. No quite as good as steam injection, but it works. The effect moisture has on bread has to do with the starch residing on the crust surface. Moistness allows this portion of the bread to expend thereby creating greater volume. Water or vegetable oil brushed on the surface will give similar results.

    Walt

    20 May 2009 at 23:55

    • @Walt: Sounds like a good idea. Me thinks the bigger the surfarce, i.e. the wider the pan, the more water is released into the oven. The old hint of putting a cup of water into the oven with the bread is rather ineffective.

      The amount of steam released into the baking chamber in commercial deck ovens is enormous, I think. For 1m³ about 2 litres is normal, says my book on commercial baking. But these ovens can probably hold the heat better than a small home oven, so injecting a huge amount of water into it might be not too successful, unless the steam is already hot.

      The best results I’ve had concerning oven spring was with an ‘oven bag’ made out of a plastic that can resist high heats. But the bags get destroyed in each baking, so not really an option.

      Regards,
      Nils

      theinversecook

      21 May 2009 at 18:22


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