Steam in bread baking: how steam can transform your bread from dull to dazzling

Have you ever loaded your perfectly risen artisan bread into the oven, only to discover a dull, constricted loaf at the end of the bake? How do artisan bakeries achieve that lovely golden, crisp, shiny crust? Steam in bread baking is the key!

Steam in bread baking-17

Adding steam during baking doesn’t just enable a great rise in the oven, and help develop a beautiful, crackly crust.

Steam in bread baking promotes an open crumb structure, as well as rich flavor and color. Click To Tweet

But how can we get results like this at home?

Today we’re going to test different home methods of adding steam in bread baking. Our test bread is the Pain Au Levain recipe used in our Baking School. This lovely sourdough bread has a mild flavor and a wonderfully open crumb.

Pain Au Levain is the perfect guinea pig for our steam tests. We can first admire the loaves baked in class, utilizing a professional steam injection oven. Next, we’ll use the same recipe at home to test various baking and steaming methods. Which home steaming method will bring us closest to professional oven results?

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflourThat’s the Baking School’s steam injection oven on the left, and closeups of the Pain Au Levain loaves baking on the right. Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflourAnd here’s a beautiful loaf straight from the oven. See what we’re aiming for here?

If you want to follow along with our tests and bake the Pain Au Levain bread, you can find the recipe and directions here. If not, these steaming methods will work with any artisan bread recipe.

Time to bake

We’ll bake this bread at 450°F for 35 to 40 minutes. If you plan to use a stone and a cast iron frying pan (for steam), preheat both of these for 60 minutes before baking.

A brief note about scoring (a.k.a. “slashing”)

Before we get too steamy, let’s take a moment to consider the importance of scoring your bread before baking. Those cuts in your bread aren’t just decorative! Scoring the loaf provides a strategic vent to release fermentation gases during baking. Good scoring, along with proper steaming, allows your loaf to open up fully. Without scoring your loaf is likely to burst open at weak spots and end up oddly shaped and constricted.

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflourThe Pain Au Levain bread requires one long “ear” or “lip” cut down the center of the loaf. Notice how the blade is angled, and only one corner of the blade touches the loaf.

For more tips on scoring, check out this blog post and helpful video.

Ways to add steam in bread baking

Before we get started, please remember to suit yourself up with good oven mitts whenever you’re working with steam!

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflour

Steam in bread baking: Method #1

The simplest method of adding steam to your oven is to spray the loaf with warm water prior to putting it into the oven. Spray the oven once the bread is loaded, and then again about 5 minutes into the bake.

Unfortunately, this method doesn’t offer much moisture, and the effects on the bread are minimal.

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflour

Steam in bread baking: Method #2

In class our instructor illustrated method #2. She loaded the loaf onto the preheated stone and then poured about 1 1/2 cups boiling water into a preheated cast iron frying pan on the shelf below. This method works quite well, as you can see from the resulting loaf on the right.

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflourI tried the same method at home with the addition of preheated lava rocks in the frying pan. My loaf looked great, too.

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflour

Steam in bread baking: Method #3

If you want to enhance the effect of method #2, a large metal bowl can be placed over the loaf to trap the steam and keep it close to the surface of the bread during the oven-spring period.

This is part of the reason steam injection ovens get such great results; the individual “decks” of the oven aren’t very high, keeping the steam where it’s needed—on the surface of the loaf.

Load your loaf onto the preheated stone and then place the bowl over the loaf, with the front of the bowl overhanging the stone and leaving a gap that lines up with the preheated cast iron frying pan below.

Pour about 1/2 cup bowling water into the frying pan and shut the door. Remove the bowl 15 minutes later and allow the bread to finish baking in a dry oven. A butter knife comes in handy to lift the hot bowl, which will be hard to grab with oven mitts.

If steam is so great, why finish in a dry oven?

Steam is vital during the oven-spring period so that the surface of the loaf remains moist and expands easily. However, once the yeast has died and the loaf is set, moisture is no longer a friend to your bread. Too much moisture throughout the bake can lead to a thick, rubbery crust.

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflour

Steam in bread baking: Method #4

A Dutch oven or cloche also works to keep the moisture given off by the bread during baking close to the surface of the loaf, allowing for the same kind of expansion and shiny, golden crust.

Although we don’t generally recommend preheating empty any of the baking pots we sell (a method popularized by Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman about a decade ago), Emile Henry’s 4.2-quart Dutch oven can be preheated empty, as can their new potato and bread pot. These pots heat up more quickly than cast iron, so 30 minutes preheating should be sufficient. Remove the lid after 20 minutes of baking.

Never fear, though, if you don’t have a pot suitable for preheating empty (or don’t like messing with a very hot pot), you can still get great results baking in your Dutch oven. In the photos above, I put the Staub Dutch oven with its cargo of risen bread into a preheated oven; but if you prefer a cold start, that works great too. Again, it’s important to remove the lid and allow the bread to continue baking in a dry oven after the loaf is set (remove the lid after 25 minutes in a preheated oven, after 30 minutes when baking from a cold start). Overall baking time will be a little longer when baking from a cold start.

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflour

Let’s compare our results

The loaf on the left was steamed with method #1. This loaf failed to open properly where I scored it, and the crust is dull in color. Notice how the crumb structure is relatively dense, in comparison with the other loaves? It will still be a delicious loaf of bread, but more steam would have made it even better.

The loaf in the center was steamed with method #2. It opened up beautifully and has a lovely brown crust, although not quite as shiny as loaf #3.

The last loaf was baked with method #3. See how shiny and blistery the crust is, and how open the crumb?

Both this loaf and the loaf baked in the Dutch oven were refrigerated overnight in their shaped form before being baked the next day. This added step contributes to a more blistery crust, as well as more sour flavor.

Overnight refrigeration is particularly useful when you know your schedule will interfere with baking bread on its own schedule — when it’s perfectly proofed and ready to go into the oven.

What happens when you over-proof your bread?

Have you ever wondered what effect allowing your dough to rise too long in the shaped form has on the final outcome of your bread?

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflour
Notice there are lots of large gas bubbles right under the surface of the loaf above. This is a sign that the loaf has been allowed to rise too long before going into the oven. I deliberately over-proofed this loaf as an added experiment, and baked it using the bowl method of steaming (#3).

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflourThe loaf on the right is my over-proofed loaf, and the loaf on the left is loaf #3. While my over-proofed loaf didn’t open up quite as much as loaf #3 and has a slightly denser crumb structure, it still rose well and colored up nicely.

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflour

Steam saves the day!

If we compare the crumb of my over-proofed loaf (right) to the relatively closed crumb of loaf #1 (left), we can see how even an over-proofed loaf will fare better with steam than a loaf that doesn’t get enough steam.

Keep in mind that not all breads will endure as well as this one did when allowed to rise too long. Have you ever scored your loaf, only to see it deflate like a poked balloon? Or has your lofty loaf collapsed in the oven? These are sure signs that you’ve let your bread rise too much before baking.

I hope you’ll give our Pain Au Levain recipe a try and test out some of these steaming methods as well. Steam really does make the difference!

You can view the Pain Au Levain recipe here, along with the printable version.

Steam in bread baking via @kingarthurflourBig thanks go out to Lee Clarke for taking these beautiful photos during class, so I could get down and dirty with the dough!

And if you ever get a chance to take a class at one of our baking schools, I guarantee you’ll have a great time, and go home with a wealth of baking knowledge and techniques.

Barbara Alpern
About

Long time professional artisan bread baker, caramel maker and member of our Baker Specialist team, Barb grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has four grown sons. She has baked in Michigan, Maine, Vermont, and Texas (if you count baking cookies for her son's wedding!).

comments

  1. Laura

    I can’t believe this was just posted, the timing is impeccable! After years of yeast bread baking, and 2 months of playing around with yeast assisted sourdough, I have my 1st ever batch of sourdough only risen loaves shaped, proofed and ready to bake. I have spent the last 2 days scouring over the website here, reading all the blogs(and comments) and watching all the videos I could find about shaping and baking sourdough. Came back one last time to see if I missed anything as I let my oven climb the last 50 degrees it needs, and came across this post. I was specifically looking to check the steaming techniques too! “Huh…how did I miss this” I thought….and “funny there are no comments.” Checked the date and what do you know- today! The bread baking universe has aligned for me I guess…hope that is a good sign! Stone and pan are in and preheating, bowl handy, loaves were shaped and refrigerated overnight and are looking ready. Just need to brave the slashing now and hope my sourdough starter was as vigorous as I thought it was! Thanks for reading my mind and posting this really helpful blog about steam- it was EXACTLY what I needed at just the right moment. How did you do that?

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Laura, we had it on our calendar that you’d be needing this info right about now! I’m glad this blog post came at the right time for you and hope your first 100% sourdough loaves turned out beautifully! Please report back!
      Barb

  2. sandy

    What a great post. Love the photos too. I really like that the photographer gets mentioned by name in the article. I am an experienced bread maker, but the thing that gives me the most difficulty is knowing when the bread is proofed and ready to go into the oven. I know that I under-proof sometimes and over-proof at other times. My kitchen varies in temp so much that timing the final proof doesn’t help very much. Any suggestions about I can tell when it is time to put the bread into the oven?

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Hi Sandy, I’m so glad you hear you enjoyed this post! That final proof can be difficult to gauge and even though I’ve been doing this for years, there’s always a little uncertainty, especially when I’m baking a new recipe for the first time. With my sourdough baking, the final overnight rise in the refrigerator seems to make this step a lot easier. The bread is usually risen enough in the morning to bake without much decision-making necessary, and the loaves aren’t as delicate to transfer and slash as shaped loaves that have been left at room temperature to rise. With yeast breads I look to see that a gentle poke on the surface of the loaf results in the indentation filling slowly and leaving only a small imprint. The tricky part is that every recipe is a little different, and environmental conditions are always changing, so what works one day, might not work that well the next. Practice helps. Trying to maintain consistent dough and proofing temperatures from day to day also helps. And perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in finding this a difficult step in the baking process!
      Barb

  3. Laura

    Barb- I give myself a 90% success- not bad for my 1st go! I used the Extra Tangy sourdough recipe (without the sour salt), and it has the perfect amount of tang for me. I gave it a long rise on day 2; 6 hours cold, 6 hours warm because that’s what life allowed for. Shaped into 2 boules, and used pyrex bowels lined with a floured cloth (no fancy coiled bowls) and into the fridge overnight. Let them come up to temp for about 2 hrs this morning before baking using method #3. They stuck a little to the cloth when I turned them out so maybe more flour was needed. They didn’t seem over-proofed, but didn’t open up and pop up as much as I was hoping. The outside is nice and crusty and inside is perfectly chewy and has pretty decent holes. Absolutely delicious if I do say so myself. I did add a little extra water to my dough to keep it kind of slack. Maybe more steam is needed? My oven has no window, but based on sound it seemed that the steam was gone fairly quick. Probably need to work on my slashing technique too. If I can get it to open up like yours with a little more height, it would be perfect! So many variables, but I will continue to play around and see what gives. Totally fun and totally worth it!

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Laura, 90% is awesome for your 1st go! Have you checked out this blog series? Lots of great info and another sourdough recipe you might like to try.
      Barb

  4. Miles Archer

    What’s your thoughts on convection ovens? I usually bake with method #2 and convection and I get good results, but not as good as method #4. Will turning off convection help?

    Also, I’m thinking that I need to get one of those fancy french razors on a stick. I’ve tried using a regular box cutter razor blade and sharp kitchen knives and I don’t think I get a good score.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Hi Miles, I’m not a big fan of baking bread with convection, but I don’t have a convection oven at home, so I can’t say I’ve really experimented much with this type of bread baking. My fear is always that the outside crust will brown up too quickly when baking with convection. It might be worth experimenting to see if you get better results with method #2 on a “regular bake” setting. The thin metal stick you’re looking for is called a “lame” and typically uses regular double-edged razor blades that you can buy in bulk. This type of lame is the easiest and most versatile implement for scoring your bread.
      Barb

  5. Nick Ferriter

    Miles/Barb,
    I have been baking only sourdough bread for the past 10 years or so and have evolved to only baking in covered pans sometimes Corning ware with the lid on or stoneware baking pans with the lid on and now only using convection. I believe that convection distributes the heat more evenly around the container and, with the lid on, the even distribution of heat is good, and the bread doesn’t “see” the convection.
    Nick

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Nick, thanks for offering your knowledge and experience when it comes to baking artisan bread in a convection oven! It makes sense to me that convection baking may be a plus in combination with a Dutch oven or cloche.
      Barb

    2. sandy

      I agree. I am going to try this. I use a dutch oven with a lid to bake my bread but I have a “hot spot” in the back of my oven which means my bread gets a darker on one side. Using the convection should help with this. Thanks Nick.

  6. lalina

    if i may. my question is about baking regular(?) gluten free bread. no matter what the bread blend is i find that my loaves get a very dark crust. i started to foil tent after 20 minutes for a 60 minute bake it is better on top, but the sides are too dark and about 3/8 inch wide! wouldn’t be bad, but these crusts taste bitter too.
    can you tell me what i should be doing. i use ikea or wilton pans. and a gf cook spray
    i realize this has nothing to do with the sourdough baking, but i am hoping for help as it is about bread.
    thank you.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Hi Lalina, we have a lot of great resources for you when it comes to baking great gluten-free bread. First, check out this blog post and the accompanying gluten-free bread recipe. In terms of your dark/thick crust, I would recommend checking your oven temperature with an oven thermometer, to make sure it is reading accurately. If your oven is running a little too hot, this could be contributing to your dark crust. It’s easy enough to correct for any variation in oven temperature by adjusting the oven setting accordingly. If you happen to be baking in a convection oven, try baking on “regular bake” rather than “convection bake.” For more help with your quest for great gluten-free bread, please give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-2253(BAKE). We’d love to help you troubleshoot the cause of your thick/dark crust.
      Barb

  7. Barbara Gillingham

    I purchased your artisan stoneware round clay bread baker without a top. Can I use this method #2 with steam from cast iron pot below and round metal cover like you have demonstrated putting the dough in the baker on oven shelf, steam in bottom
    and cover as shown in your photo?

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Barbara, yes, I think that would work well. I would use about one cup of boiling water in this case, and remove the metal cover after 20 minutes.
      Barb

  8. Sandra Jones

    In the first paragraph under the subhead, “Steam saves the day,” you spelled “fare” incorrectly. Also, your email did not link–I had to type in the headline completely to get the story. So now I have had to screen-shoot to get all the information. Not many readers are going to go to that much trouble to get help in purchasing and using your product.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Sandra, thanks for the spelling correction and for pointing out that our link is broken! I apologize for the inconvenience. It looks like the links are working now.
      Barb

  9. Lenore

    Has anyone tried using 5-6 ice cubes in a preheated pan on the lowest shelf of the oven? I think I got this suggestion from Secrets of a Jewish Baker. I use a preheated oven stone, and tend to bake rather dense multi-grain loaves, and often do not get the oven spring I want.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Hi Lenore, ice cubes won’t give you quite the same burst of steam at the beginning of the bake, so you might want to experiment with the boiling water and see if this makes a difference. If your loaves are quite dense this can also inhibit oven spring. It may be helpful to add a little more water to the recipe, to give you a slightly wetter dough. Another possibility is that your loaves have been allowed to rise too long in the shaped form before baking. In this case, putting them in the oven a little earlier may yield a better oven spring.
      Barb

  10. Diana Haseman

    Can cake yeast be frozen? If so, for how long? If can freeze how long out of freezer before it can be used. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Diana, unfortunately cake yeast can’t be frozen and needs to be stored in the refrigerator.
      Barb

  11. Elaine Beard

    Thanks for all the posts. I live in Australia and baking bread is a challenge, especially this last summer as the weather has gone a bit feral.
    Will try these methods for steaming.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Thanks for offering an Australian viewpoint to our baking discussions, Elaine! We feel so lucky to be able to connect with bakers all over the world in this way.
      Barb

  12. Laura Perry

    I wish there were equipment for longer, thinner loaves. The problem with round loaves is that slices are so variable. I use perforated “French bread” pans from Chicago Metallic: they make loaves that are thicker than baguettes, and they’re the same width the whole length of the loaf. But there’s no ceramic or metal cover that will fit over them to trap steam, as far as I know. Am I missing something?

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Hi Laura, I agree, longer, thinner loaves are especially challenging when it comes to applying proper steam. I have seen disposable roasting pans used to cover baguettes and other long loaves, and I’ve even seen someone cut the ends off two such lids so they fit together and could be adjusted in length by sliding them together or apart. While this type of cover might not be high enough when used in conjunction with your French bread pans, it should work well when baking on a stone. We also sell this covered Baguette Baker as a nice option when baking smaller baguettes.
      Barb

  13. Anthony

    I have been an a avid bread baker for over 15 years, taste is not an issue, however the one difficulty I have is that I have not been able to get an very open crumb with those large air pockets. This article gave me some new ideas to try. I’ve tried the ice cube route, the water in a pan trick, the spraying/brushing of loaves with water and so forth. Hopefully the variations of the water bath will help, I look forward to giving them a try.

    Reply
  14. Connie

    Don’t spray water in the oven, like #1. Even though I didn’t spray on the bread & stone, but, in the oven itself … when the bread is on the baking stone, the hot stone with the spray getting on the stone will break. Mine did!

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Connie, thanks for offering this necessary caution! It’s true that water can cause damage, including to your stone or the glass door of your oven, if not applied carefully. To prevent glass damage it’s helpful to drape a dishtowel over the oven window before pouring boiling water into a preheated pan, or before spraying water into your oven.
      Barb

  15. Anthony

    By cake yeast, I assume you mean cakes of fresh yeast. Yes it can be frozen as long as you wrap it well. I do it regularly and defrost using warm water. It takes a while to show signs of life but it certainly makes good bread.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Hi Anthony, I stand corrected. I was speaking from my experiences in professional bakeries, where fresh yeast was often used, but never frozen. This is because a portion of the fresh yeast will always be damaged when frozen, and the yeast will not behave as reliably or predictably when thawed. As a home baker, the dilemma is more about allowing the fresh yeast to go bad vs. risking that there may be some damage done to it when freezing. For the home baker, freezing fresh yeast may well be a wise and useful choice.
      Barb

  16. toby

    Barbara great article, thankyou! good to get some visual evidence in different touted steam methods. thank you for your research. i’d like to “expand” on the over-proofed loaf problem .. does one just go ahead and bake an over-proofed loaf with stream and hope; or, can the loaf be punched down, kneaded, reshaped and reproofed?? thoughts? recommendations? and is it true doughs at high altitude(7500ft) need about half the recipe rise time?

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Thanks, Toby! It’s true that because the air pressure is lower at higher altitudes, rising does tend to occur more quickly, although I’m sure other factors (such as dough temperature, consistency, and amount of rising agent) also impact the rate of rise. When it comes to over-proofed loaves, reshaping and allowing the loaf to rise again can be a good option if the loaf has already fallen or if it seems inevitable that the loaf will fall during the bake. There’s no guarantee that the loaf will rise again quite as well, but it’s definitely worth a shot! This particular sourdough recipe has quite a long proofing window, and my over-proofed loaf wasn’t in any danger of collapsing.
      Barb

  17. Tom Goodell

    Hi, thanks for this post! This really helped clarify some of my questions about steam. I’ve been wrestling with steaming techniques for some time, and the only one I’ve had consistently good results with is baking my loaves in a cast iron pot, following the methods in Ken Forkish’s great book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast.

    I have a couple of questions:

    Do you have any experience with the Foreneau Bread Oven https://www.fourneauoven.com/) , which you place inside your kitchen oven?

    I tried baking baguettes last weekend for the first time, and used your method number 2 (though I hadn’t read this post yet, it’s described in Hamelman’s book (Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes). They rose really well, but the crusts were quite soft and light colored. I baked them on a cookie sheet with parchment, not on a stone. I’m wondering if baking them on a stone would have made a difference, and if perhaps leaving them in the oven longer would have helped. The internal temp of the loaves was about 206° when I removed them from the oven.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Hi Tom! I’ve never seen the Foreneau Bread oven until today. It does look very interesting! My concern would have to do with how easy it is to peel the bread in and out of the oven. I’ve done my share of peeling loaves, but even with a little more room to maneuver it can be a bit tricky at first. Even though I do have a nice peel at home, I often end up using parchment paper to slide my loaf onto the hot stone by hand, which clearly wouldn’t be possible with the Foreneau oven. When it comes to your baguette baking, I think a preheated stone might give you better results, along with baking a bit longer. Check out this blog post for more great tips on achieving a crustier crust.
      Barb

  18. Tom Goodell

    Thanks Barb! The blog post you linked to was really helpful. I’ll try a stone next time, and let the bread stay in the oven longer.

    I believe the Forneau comes with a peel that’s designed for it’s shape. I’ve always struggled with peels, and just ordered a Super Peel (superpeel.com), which looks fantastic and has glowing reviews from folks who have bought them. And I saw a post from the guy who makes them that he’s experimenting with a SuperPeel for the Forneau—that’s actually how I found the Forneau.

    Tom

    Reply
  19. Jen B

    I’ve always used ice cubes in a preheated cast iron skillet. I’m going have to try the boiling water next time I make bread. I can’t wait to see the difference it makes.

    Reply
  20. Ethan

    I agree steam is essential for great bread. Having employed method two quite a while ago with good results I now use method four. Not quite as good but I am no longer blowing out my oven ignitor and my oven light bulb. Also using a cast iron skillet and water will strip all of the seasoning off and return your skillet to bare metal. Just a couple of warnings to be aware of.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Ethan, thank you for the helpful warnings! I have a designated pot I use for steaming purposes that I don’t mind damaging. You definitely don’t want to use one of your favorite seasoned cast iron frying pans!
      Barb

  21. Debra Seamans

    I am a virtual newbie to bread baking, and with the help of one cookbook have been experimenting. Decent results but I want to learn much more.
    This article has been a real boost to my understanding of the impact of steam on the success of my end product. I will review it again in depth when I am ready tomorrow to bake my next loaves.
    Question – can you recommend one/two how-to books for beginning bread bakers? Want to learn to follow best practices from the beginning. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Hi Debra, we’re so glad you’ve joined our baking community and are finding our blogs helpful as you develop your baking skills! In terms of other resources, our All-Purpose Baker’s Companion is a great place to begin your bread baking journey. It has lots of great information on all kinds of baking techniques and best practices. When it comes to baking artisan breads, you may want to consider Ciril Hitz’s Baking Artisan Bread Cookbook. Mr. Hitz is an excellent teacher and this books is quite approachable for a beginning baker. To expand on this resource, you may want to consider Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. While I don’t think you could say this is a book for beginning bread bakers, it has appeal for both professional bakers and home bakers because it gets to the heart of great bread baking by discussing the reasons behind the methods and techniques–it’s not just a “how to,” but also a “why” book, and after many years of professional baking, it’s still the book I refer to most when I have bread baking dilemmas. One more resource that you might consider are the online classes from King Arthur Flour available through Craftsy. Amber Eisner, who is a baking instructor at our Baking School here in Vermont, does a great job with her Essentials of Bread Baking class, and there are lots of other great classes available through Craftsy to build upon this class, as you continue to grow as a baker.
      Barb

  22. Sonia

    I’ve recently read about the use of steam in baking artisan bread baking in a few different places. No one seems to mention it in relation to “normal” bread baking though; can/should it be used when baking more traditional bread? I know it’s not in vogue, but I’m working with making “normal” white bread right now and am wondering if steam would be beneficial for that too. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Hi Sonia, great question! Steam is almost always a benefit when baking bread, except for breads that have an egg wash, which serves the same purpose as steam by keeping the surface of the loaf moist and adding shine. You wouldn’t want to steam a bread like Challah because it gets an egg wash and also because steam can cause the strands to meld together and not allow the loaf to open up properly. Breads baked at a lower temperature expand more easily because the crust doesn’t set as early in the process, but keeping the baking chamber moist during the oven spring period can certainly be helpful.
      Barb

    1. Barbara Alpern , post author

      Hi Priscilla, most home ovens aren’t airtight enough to require venting, but in professional ovens the steam is vented once oven spring is complete and the loaves are set.
      Barb

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