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Steam injection oven – Keller style – safe?


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#1 OliverB

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 07:25 PM

I just got Keller's Bouchon Bakery book and in the bread section he suggest to put a tray with rocks and a fat chain on the bottom of the oven, then when you put your dough on the backing stone he appears to suggest using a super soaker or something like that to add a lot of water and slam the door shut.

Now, that idea certainly can work, but isn't that really dangerous? Seems he has a glass door on the oven (like mine) though it's not quite clear to see. Get some cold water on that super heated glass and you will have a great big expensive and potentially quite dangerous mess, no? Same with the baking stone, if you don't aim well and get water on that, won't it shatter?

Has anybody here tried this method? I kind of like the medieval look of rocks and chains in there, but I don't want to risk oven or burns either.....
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#2 gfweb

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 07:53 PM

I just throw a cup of water on the bottom of the oven and shut the door. No rocks chains whips or maces

#3 pbear

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 08:49 PM

I no longer have a regular oven (long story), but when I did my solution to the steam issue was to place an enameled cast iron grill on the bottom rack of the oven in its lowest position, freeze a thin square sheet of ice (about 1 cm thick) just smaller than the grill and put that on the grill right after I had placed the loaves on a pizza stone on a rack in the second lowest position. (I would preheat both the stone and the grill at the same time.) The ridges hold up the ice as it melts, so the melting water falls to the wells between the ridges and vaporizes quickly. The advantage of this method is that the thin sheet of ice is easy to place quickly and safely. YMMV, but it worked for me.

#4 OliverB

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 09:04 PM

that's a good idea with the grill pan! I think I rather try that than the super soaker.
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#5 Mjx

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 09:33 AM

I no longer have a regular oven (long story), but when I did my solution to the steam issue was to place an enameled cast iron grill on the bottom rack of the oven in its lowest position, freeze a thin square sheet of ice (about 1 cm thick) just smaller than the grill and put that on the grill right after I had placed the loaves on a pizza stone on a rack in the second lowest position. (I would preheat both the stone and the grill at the same time.) The ridges hold up the ice as it melts, so the melting water falls to the wells between the ridges and vaporizes quickly. The advantage of this method is that the thin sheet of ice is easy to place quickly and safely. YMMV, but it worked for me.


I don't even get as elaborate as that; I just pop a cast iron pan in the oven, preheat the oven, then, when it's come to temperature, put in the bread, fill the pan with boiling water (an oven mitt is a good idea), and close the door. Works every time. Doesn't look as gnarly as a bunch of rocks and chains, or have the entertainment value of a super soaker, but I survive these privations ;)

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#6 IndyRob

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 10:27 AM

I use my wife's steam cleaner. I put a baguette pan on a half-sheet pan, and cover that with an inverted foil roasting pan with a hole punched in it. Once it all goes in the oven I inject steam through the hole several times a few minutes apart.

I've also tried all sorts of other methods in the past. I've often wondered about the effect of water on the electrics, but I think an oven has to be designed to allow for things steaming, as well as stuff potentially boiling over.

#7 HungryC

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 10:46 AM

I also use a cast iron skillet, placed in the oven while it preheats. I pour in tap water just after loading the bread, using a metal milk frothing pitcher while wearing a long oven mitt. No steam burns, no spattering, no broken glass. I tried soaking terry towels placed on a sheet pan on the oven floor, but they quickly dried out and began smoldering. Definitely not recommended, though the method appears in the Tartine Bread cookbook.

#8 Shalmanese

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 01:53 PM

I use a cast iron pan in the bottom of the oven and just throw in 3 or 4 cubes of ice. Pouring water tends to be annoying as it's hard to get the angle right without burning your arm on a hot oven rack. Ice cubes are easier as you can just toss them in from a distance.
PS: I am a guy.

#9 OliverB

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 02:38 PM

good ideas, I'll stick to the pan and ice idea I think.
"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"
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#10 Chris Hennes

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 03:04 PM

I don't actually use a Super Soaker, but I do use one of those pressurized plant misters, which is more or less the same thing. I haven't blown the oven up yet....

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#11 JoNorvelleWalker

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 06:36 PM

I use a lidded pan designed with a compartment underneath for holding a measured amount of water. The bread goes on a perforated tray in the middle. I have baked all my own bread now for going on twenty years. On the rare occasions that I don't use steam (such as tonight with Moroccan flat bread) I bake directly on a baking stone.

#12 OliverB

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Posted 23 December 2012 - 03:49 PM

I'm mostly concerned about cold or even warm/hot water hitting the glass window. I seem to recall a thread here where that blew the window out which costs a lot to replace. Maybe not? I might be wrong.

Interesting ideas here! I never liked baking much, but lately I had fun with the cookies and am considering some bread or maybe even a cake :-)
"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"
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#13 jsmeeker

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Posted 23 December 2012 - 08:53 PM

You can certainly crack the glass on the door. Been there, done that.

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#14 Pierogi

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 12:02 AM

^^^What he said, although I've not experienced it personally (touching wood). And I've killed a hot baking stone by hitting it with a stream of water. I've *heard/read* that you can protect the door glass with a thick, folded towel over it when you itroduce the water, but to my mind, unless it was many layers thick, you'd still have the issue. I limit my attempts since the pizza stone incident to using a pan with either boiling water poured in from my kettle, or ice. I like my range, and don't particularly want to replace it because I exploded the window.
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#15 Crouton

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 10:46 AM

What purpose do chains and rocks have over a simple pan of water? Seems squirting a water gun over a pan fulll of rocks wouldn't produce all that much steam, or at least a consistent supply once the initial spray evaporates off.

#16 IndyRob

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 11:21 AM

What purpose do chains and rocks have over a simple pan of water? Seems squirting a water gun over a pan fulll of rocks wouldn't produce all that much steam, or at least a consistent supply once the initial spray evaporates off.


Rocks (and chains, I guess) can get a lot hotter than water and therefore can store a lot more heat - which the water can use to change phase from liquid to gas (steam). The amount of water will limit the amount of steam and the size/amount of stone will determine how much energy is available for the conversion.

I recall one of my uncle's sauna in the hinterlands. A couple cups of water poured on a large column of heated stones created quite a plume of steam.

#17 Crouton

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 01:20 PM

You'd think modern ovens would include such a feature. I mean, it's water.

#18 Broken English

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 09:15 PM

The purpose of the steam hit for bread is just to allow the heat to be moist enough at the start of baking so that the dough can kick up and become more airy. So if you're using a towel you can just remove it ten minutes in to prevent smouldering.

I've never had an issue with the simple cup of water thrown in the bottom of the oven trick though, and haven't heard of glass doors cracking until now.
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#19 Syzygies

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 12:39 AM

loaf.jpg

Last winter I made sourdough bread a few dozen times, trying to get the hang of it. I tried many variations on this "steam in oven" approach, and the Lodge cast iron combi cooker favored by the Tartine cookbook:

http://www.amazon.co...r/dp/B0009JKG9M

That's not my favorite shape loaf, but baking inside a Lodge combi cooker worked far better for me than any "steam in oven" approach. Even close cousins, such as Le Creuset pots used by "no knead" sources, or Sassafras Superstone domes, didn't work as well. So at least skim the Tartine approach in a bookstore, to be able to use it for breads where it would be an option?
Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"
Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

#20 David A. Goldfarb

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 04:55 AM

I've always just used a mister sprayer--just open the door a bit and 4-5 sprays. Haven't cracked a window or a stone yet.

#21 Syzygies

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 09:28 AM

There are two goals here: Not destroying one's oven, and producing a commercial-grade crust. Anecdotes concerning the first goal would be more useful if they also comparatively addressed the second goal. While Cook's Illustrated irks me because of their agenda (they're never happy till they've discovered their private "special sauce" that shows up everyone before them as idiots) they do base their work on comparisons. And so do the Modernist Cuisine books, with close ties to eGullet.

I used to not use any water, and I never cracked a window, but my bread was mediocre. After reading the Tartine Bread book, my bread got much better. I also tried small amounts of water for steam, and the effects were nearly indistinguishable from doing nothing at all. In such moments, I taunt myself with memories of 1960's RevereWare pots with that copper film on the bottom. They reassure the cook, with no effect on the food.

Let's give Thomas Keller some credit. He makes his recommendation based on the sincerely held belief that any simpler measure would be far less effective. Tartine Bread makes the same point; it is nearly impossible to reproduce at home the steam in a commercial bread oven, and with far less steam, we're kidding ourselves. The cast iron combo pot is an amazing exception, though it can't be used for everything.
Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"
Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

#22 Syzygies

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 09:33 AM

or at least a consistent supply once the initial spray evaporates off.

One doesn't want consistent steam, any more than one wants consistent smoke in a barbecue pit. Steam, like smoke, is most effective at the beginning.

Edited by Syzygies, 25 December 2012 - 09:33 AM.

Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"
Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

#23 IndyRob

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 02:39 PM

You'd think modern ovens would include such a feature. I mean, it's water.


I think that's where the Combi Ovens come in.

#24 Crouton

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 08:52 AM

or at least a consistent supply once the initial spray evaporates off.

One doesn't want consistent steam, any more than one wants consistent smoke in a barbecue pit. Steam, like smoke, is most effective at the beginning.


One didn't know that. One thanks you :)

#25 Crouton

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 08:55 AM

What about dropping an ice cube or two INTO the pot using the no knead hot heavy pot approach after dumping in your dough?

#26 pbear

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 10:28 PM

If baking bread in a covered pot, you should use a spritzer. It's a small room and easy to generate enough steam with a few spritzes (plus the dough adds moisture). Whereas the ice method depends on direct contact with a skillet or grill pan, It's intended for steaming the whole oven.

#27 OliverB

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 02:57 PM

good info, just getting back to this thread. I'll try the cast iron pan I think. I also have a recipe somewhere to bake bread in a dutch oven in my Big Green Egg, at the Eggfest somebody made that and it was really good. Have to try that when it gets a bit warmer outside.
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#28 Paul Kierstead

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 03:57 PM

Has anyone ever tried running a small metal tube into the oven via the oven door and injecting continuous steam for the first few minutes?

#29 EnriqueB

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 03:58 AM

I just got Keller's Bouchon Bakery book and in the bread section he suggest to put a tray with rocks and a fat chain on the bottom of the oven, then when you put your dough on the backing stone he appears to suggest using a super soaker or something like that to add a lot of water and slam the door shut.

Now, that idea certainly can work, but isn't that really dangerous? Seems he has a glass door on the oven (like mine) though it's not quite clear to see. Get some cold water on that super heated glass and you will have a great big expensive and potentially quite dangerous mess, no? Same with the baking stone, if you don't aim well and get water on that, won't it shatter?

Has anybody here tried this method? I kind of like the medieval look of rocks and chains in there, but I don't want to risk oven or burns either.....

I use the tray with rocks as well as a mist sprayer when baking bread in my electric convection oven and never had any problem with the glass. This was a trick I learnt in a course from the best-known home bread maker in Spain and I know many people that also use it. No problem has been ever reported by any of them, that I know of.

#30 Crouton

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:17 AM

Where do you keep the rocks and chains when not in use? Seems like a PITA to drag all that out each time you make bread, no?