Posted on

The importance of steam and an experiment

A @challengerbreadware experiment inspired by @the_bread_code

@the_bread_code posted a YouTube video recently talking about steam.

When baking bread, steam is super important.

The steam allows the outside layer of the bread to stay mailable while the bread is expanding during the bake. Not enough steam and the outside layer hardens too quickly, limiting the expansion or “oven spring”

Professional ovens have steam settings, allowing you to adjust the amount of humidity in the oven over the course of the bake, more in the beginning, less in the end (if you want a crunchy loaf)

In home ovens we don’t have that luxury. Enter the dutch oven, a home bakers best friend.

A dutch oven designed for bread baking is actually called a cloche and it’s designed to trap steam while baking. (Different from a couche which is used to help loaves keep their shape while proofing)

These baking vessels capture the steam that’s released from the bread to create a steamy environment.

You can enhance the amount of steam with a spray of water or a couple of ice cubes. I tend to go the ice cube route.

@the_bread_code ‘s theory was that it may also help to keep the top of the Dutch oven cooler during the first part of the bake. In theory that would also keep the surface of the bread cooler and more mailable. Accomplishing the same thing as adding an ice cube or two, without adding the ice cube.

So I gave it a go, left bread is top of @challengerbreadware preheated to just 150C (300F) and the right I had the top preheated to 250C (500F).

The results are pretty cool. The cool top bread definitely spread more than the right but the right rose taller.

I’m going to do a follow on experiment with 200C preheat and see if I can get a happy middle ground of spread and lift!

Thanks for the inspiration @the_bread_code !
Link to Post