Over the years I have tried many different methods of getting steam in my oven. I have used Teresa Greenway's method of using a roasting pan or lid which works great for freeform, ciabatta and long basket forms. But since I work full time my baking is mostly at night so the sooner I can bake my bread the better.
So this means baking in tins. When you bake two loaves at a time 2 to 3 times a week waiting for one loaf to bake means baking for at least 1 hour. I can cut that time in half using tins. The problem with Tins is that it is hard to keep enough steam around the loaf. Sure you can spritz the loaves with water and add water or ice to a pan in the oven but somehow it wasn't the same as covering the loaves with a water spritzed pan as in Teresa's method. It seems that the walls of the pan and heat dispersion through the metal just allows the crust to harden too quickly.
One day since I needed a larger and smaller loaf for some reason I used the two larger pans I normally use for two loaves and, spritzed and inverted one on top of the other pan. Then I placed the loaf carefully in the oven. Sheer genius... what the result was, not me... So ever since that time when I bake in pans, or look to buy new ones - I use one set for the bread and buy one set for the steam.
The method is simple. Shape your loaves and allow to rise in the pans till ~1-1/2 the size that the dough was when you started. For me it takes about an hour and 20 minutes because my dough is cold. I ferment my dough for around 20-24 hours in the fridge. Note: Before I form the dough I usually will let it set on the counter for at least an hour. Then I start my oven - the temp I use here in Ohio is 425F. I have found this to be the best because I still use my stone for oven spring. But this will be different depending on the accuracy of your oven and it's thermastat. I allow the oven to reach temp usually around 20 minutes then allow an extra 20 - 30 minutes to heat the stone. Over some of the other methods of home baking this could be an energy savings.
Once the oven is hot you slash the bread and spritz the lid and sometimes the loaf. This gelatinizes the surface of the bread adding gloss and contributing a surface ready for carmelization or a miallard reaction. I place the loaves in the oven with one pan inverted on top of the other and set the timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes I remove the inverted pans and voila - oven spring and gelatinization. I then bake for usually around 12 - 15 additional minutes uncovered. The result you can see in many of my pictures. I can usually get an even crumb and great gluten structure. But I do not often get large holes more likely smaller more even ones. So when time allows - usually the weekends - I bake freeform or formed loaves so that I can still get Bread Drama. TA TA Dum.... Sorry more pictures will follow - later.
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