The other day, I watched a YouTube video by FoodGeek who did an experiment in which he turned his oven off during the first 20 minutes to see how it affected oven spring. He apparently learned it from a bakery that swore by this method. The results of the experiment were pretty amazing. In both cases (Dutch oven and baking stone) where he turned his oven off, the oven spring with both loaves was magnificent, especially with the Dutch oven loaf that had huge holes.
I was going to do that myself with my latest bake but instead decided to just lower the temp of my oven during the first 20 minutes. The reason for this was that my oven doesn’t retain heat very well, so turning off my oven entirely would cool it down way too much for my liking. And the results? well, they were pretty amazing as you can see in the pictures above.
The first thing I noticed when my loaf came out of the oven, was that it was nice and puffy all around. Compare that to this loaf that I baked earlier from the same batch of dough:
No doubt, that has a great oven spring as well, but you can tell that it’s not quite as much as the loaf up top as its ends slope down a little more severely though both have excellent crumb structures.
Here’s the technique I used:
- Preheat oven to 485°F for an hour to ensure my stone has come fully to temp.
- 5 minutes before baking, add water to my steaming container to make sure the loaf enters a steamy environment.
- Quickly transfer the loaf to my stone.
- Immediately turn the oven down to 400°F and set the time to 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the steaming container, vent the steam, then bake at 425° for 40 minutes until the bottom third of the crust is a deep mahogany in color.
So why do I think this works so well? I think the main reason is that the lower temp means the loaf comes up to temp much more slowly, which allows the yeast to stay in their super-active zone (between 90°F and 140°F when they begin to die off). Combined with the steamy environment, that lets the loaf expand – a lot!
Admittedly, I’m going to have to do this a few more times. I’ll be making baguettes next, so I’ll attempt the technique with those. I’ll keep you posted!
Hi, i am a year into baking bread and new to yoyr site. I love it. But what is a steaming container? I want to try your technique of lowering oven temp for first 20 mins…
Welcome! In answer to your question, a steaming container is a pan of sorts (I use a broiler pan, but you could use a cast iron skillet) that you pour a cup or two of hot water into and place at the bottom of your oven to create steam, as most conventional home ovens do not have steam injection built-in. Steam keeps the outside of the loaves moist to allow expansion during the first 15-20 minutes of the bake.
That said, if you’re using a Dutch oven or combo cooker to bake your bread, you won’t need a separate container as the steam generated from the loaf itself will provide the necessary moisture during the first part of the bake.