Sometimes I think I’ve figured out a technique for making bread. This is the right way, I say with confidence. Then I slap myself upside the head because I’m obviously wrong. I used to create steam in my oven with a complicated and dangerous process involving spray bottles, lava rocks, and the potential for the oven door glass to explode in a cloud of red hot needles. No more! I found out it was better just to cover the bread with a foil roasting pan for the first ten minutes of the bake to hold in the moisture. No more, take two! Last night I made some sourdough and because I’m Uncle F%@k-Up, I made a big round boule that didn’t fit under a foil roasting pan. So I put the pan in the bottom of the oven and threw some water in it. The oven spring was tremendous and it formed a huge ear. The batard baking in the other oven under a foil pan came out with a more bland crust and less spring. Aha! So I made a third loaf with a steam pan again and came out with this:
Once again I’m back to steam, but I’m thinking the dramatic hiss of steam when I throw water on hot lava rocks isn’t necessary. Gentle steam in a thin pan seems to have been plenty to help along this bread to a happier ending. You’d think that flour, water, and salt baked in a hot place wouldn’t be so complicated. Maybe that’s why I like the challenge of sourdough—the simple things are the most complex. Head over to the bread page and try it out for yourself.