Almost all the recipes I post here say “bake with steam” for X amount of minutes. For commercial bakers that have steam-injected ovens, that’s a no-brainer. But most home ovens don’t have a steam injection function (unless you have a Miele). For those of us who don’t have that, our only alternative is to use a vessel of some sort to hold water that will evaporate in the high temperature of the oven.
I use the bottom tray of my broiler pan as my vessel. Others use a cast-iron skillet. I actually prefer the broiler pan as a cast-iron skillet requires preheating. No matter what you use, it should be able to hold at least 1-2 cups of hot water.
Here’s how I “bake with steam”:
- About 3-5 minutes before I place the loaves in the oven, I pour about 1-2 cups of hot water into my pan. This gives the water a bit of time to heat up and creates a steamy environment for when the bread gets loaded.
- Immediately after placing the loaves, I splash a few tablespoons of water near the outer rim of the pan to create a cloud of steam to make up for the steam I lost when I loaded my loves.
- When the time comes to vent the steam, I simply remove the pan from the oven and then finish baking dry.
Note that to avoid losing too much oven temperature. You have to be real quick because you don’t want to leave the door open too long. Also, some books, like “Flour Water Salt Yeast” will say to use just a single cup of water. That’s never enough for my oven because it has a built-in fan that will quickly evaporate the water. So I almost always use twice as much water as listed in the recipe. You’ll have to experiment with your own oven.
In the words of the great Jacques Pepin, “That’s it!” It’s not perfect. Most ovens like mine are built to naturally vent moisture. When I’m baking, I actually plug the vents using some foil and Gorilla tape. This serves to both retain the steam and helps maintain my oven temp.