Friday, January 29, 2010

Steam: Part I

Much has been written about home bakers' favorite ways to generate steam, which is essential to good bread making. Here are some methods that some well-known bakers have used:

Julia Child tried for a while dropping a hot metal ax head into a pan of cold water. (You can just picture Julia, wearing a welder’s helmet and asbestos gloves, holding a pair of tongs with a red-hot, glowing ax-head at the other end.)

Mark Bittman reports "filling a pot with stones and preheating it, then pouring boiling water over the stones to create a wet sauna (quite effective but dangerous).”

You have a more dangerous (or interesting) method? I'd like to hear about it, but you'll have to go to some lengths to top a red hot ax head. Me, I'm pouring about a cup of water in to a cast iron skillet I just leave in the oven all the time. Works great, but forget about ever using it for omelets again.


  1. My wife recieved a hand held steam cleaner as a gift a couple of years ago. It sat on the floor of the closet forever. I don't think she even took it out of the box. I decided to get some use out of it before it got donated to Goodwill. I found a length of flexible metal hose that fit over the nozel on the steamer and attached it with a hose clamp. I sit the steamer on top of the oven and run the hose down to the oven floor. The hose compresses enough for the door to seal around it without blocking the flow of steam. The steamer is good for about ten minutes of steam at a time. It looks a little silly, but I get perfect shiny crust on my sourdough and my oven spring is amazing.

  2. I love this! Bakers are nothing if not inventive. But I think you've missed on an entrepreneurial opportunity: a few years ago I saw that someone had combined a clothes steamer with a hose and a chafing dish cover (the kind you see at banquet tables), drilled a hole in it, and was selling the whole assembly as a bread steamer for a few hundred dollars. (I prefer your approach) - w.a.

  3. For baguettes and batards I pour hot water over preheated lava rocks, but for boules nothing beats my cloches made out of terracotta pots. Both methods here:



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