ye olde bread blogge

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Brushed up

with 12 comments

My blog hibernation resulted in increased productivity. My baguettes are currently going through changes as I am trying a new technique of steaming. I find this very interesting, bordering on exciting.

In a brave effort to achieve the results of a professional bread oven, I have tried numerous approaches to make better baguettes, the last one being brushing the tops of the loaves with water in the first minutes of the bake. The results were quite flat loaves with a gray, dull and soft crust. The loaves flattening is an indicator for reduced surface tension, so that was something useful, because baguettes tightening up and becoming almost perfectly round is a common problem in domestic ovens.

The latest change made the difference. Apply water along the slashes of the baguettes for about 4-5 times for the first 5-8 minutes of the bake. Overdoing it will result in unattractive crusts, but using a brush that has only touched the surface of water and wetting only the inside of the slashes, i.e. the dough that is rising out of the center of the uncooked dough, turns even slack doughs into fluffy baguettes. I never had success with yeasted poolishes until now, first picture is such a dough.

Well, ideally. there are fine points because nature is not cheap like that and it’s not self-working. I admit this is not pretty nor elegant, either, it’s a trick. But since I found the results so remarkable I had to inform everyone.

Zeb (Joanna) from Zeb Bakes was kind enough to try it, cf. her blog post. Thanks a lot, Zeb.

(Probably going to add to this post over the next days or weeks.)






Written by theinversecook

17 July 2010 at 21:16

12 Responses

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  1. Funny trick…

    • Very :-D


      18 July 2010 at 22:01

  2. It certainly helped my somewhat overproved baguettes to perk up too. Still eating them today and they have a really lovely open crumb. Thanks for mentioning me Nils :)

    Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

    17 July 2010 at 23:53

    • Thanks for trying it. I have new dough in the making. Hope to bake tomorrow.


      18 July 2010 at 22:04

  3. Try this steam method:

    Get a steamer stainless steel pan, the kind you see at buffet lines that got food in them and that are placed over hot water to keep the food warm.

    The pan I got fits perfectly with the baking stone. Now, put your dough on the baking stone and leave room for a pre-heated concrete brick. Lay the brick on its long edge if placing it face down would crowd out the dough loaves.

    Pour about 1/4 cup cold water ontop of the brick. Then cover the loaves and brick with your steamer pan overturned.

    Close oven and let this be for about 8 minutes. Then open oven and remove the pan with mittens. Continue baking as normal.

    Be careful not to place the overturned pan too close to your dough loaves as it might stick to the pan when you go to remove after 8 minutes.

    This method is superior to most any other home steam method around.



    P.S. If the brick still takes up too much room even lying on its long edge, forget the brick entirely and pour 1/4 cup water directly on the baking stone following the circumference. If some water splashes on the dough’s bottom do not worry…

    del wong

    18 July 2010 at 15:45

    • Thanks for writing that up, del wong. An imposing effort. I’m 100% sure it gives excellent results as I have tried a similar thing, simplified.

      Do you happen to know where one could one see the results of that particular way of steaming?


      18 July 2010 at 22:09

  4. Hm… Didn’t the oven temperature decrease rapidly during multiple brushing in the first minutes of baking? I use a high-pressure spray bottle for steaming. The results are quite good (cf. ).


    18 July 2010 at 22:47

    • Yes, the temperature drops, without rendering it ineffective though. I have a bottle like that and the results are impressive as your pictures show. I can’t seem to get the crust I am looking for though.

      I think everybody has different ideas about how a baguette should be. I can’t explain mine, it’s just an ideal. I guess everybody chases his or her own image of the perfect loaf.


      18 July 2010 at 23:57

  5. […] „verkrustet“ bevor der Ofentrieb angreifen kann. Von der in der Brotbackblogosphäre diskutierten Methode, die Einschnitte zu Beginn in kurzen Abständen mit Wasser abzustreichen, bin ich nicht richtig […]

  6. I like putting a pan over the loaves, though I don’t put in a heated brick as del does above. Also, I’ve had good luck with a tray on the bottom of oven into which I pour 2/3 cup of boiling water (careful not to burn yourself).

    Check out my baguettes here:

    Sam Fromartz

    10 September 2010 at 20:22

  7. Lovely baguettes. And really impressive effort to get a lot of steam into the oven. I’m getting mixed reports about my technique with brushes. It is not sure-fire and in some cases, too much heat leaves the oven. I wonder why it works so well for me. My brush can’t be that special :-)


    10 September 2010 at 22:24

  8. […] dough to start with they won’t open up in the same way. In this post I was trying to emulate Nils’s experimental technique of repeatedly spraying or painting water in the slashes in the very early […]

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