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Trying to maximise the oven rise of my loaf, and think I will try the steaming method, but what is the best way to do this in a domestic electric oven, and will could it damage my bread stone?

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try hot water in a hot thick walled pan plus spraying the sides (not bottom) of your oven about 3 times 30 seconds apart during your first few minutes of baking. –  justkt Nov 17 '10 at 14:40
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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I would not go ahead and just toss water on the oven floor as this can both damage your oven, as well as lower its temperature.

Instead, I would use a baking pan with some boiling water, put it on the lowest rack. The temperature of the oven will keep the water boiling, and thus releasing steam throughout the baking.

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but my stone will be fine? –  Mild Fuzz Nov 17 '10 at 11:36
    
I have a pizza stone and I did this the other day. I used the oven and a pan of boiling water (with the oven off) to make a proofing cabinet, which worked great! Then, turned the oven on, made sure the water was nice and steamy and baked my bread. I didn't necessarily get more of a rise out of the bread, but it did give it a really wonderful crusty crust. Pizza stone was unaffected. –  FoodTasted Nov 17 '10 at 12:26
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@Mild Fuzz Oh yeah, definitely. The potential problem is thermic shock, and the risk for that when using a baking pan full of water is pretty much none. –  Magnus Nordlander Nov 17 '10 at 12:39
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You might also try baking a loaf of bread inside an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. There's plenty of steam released from a loaf of bread that's being baked anyway, and the Dutch oven keeps it close, forming that delightful crust on the outside. I wish I could take credit for this one, but that comes from Ratio.

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Cooks Illustrated has an Irish soda bread that is baked in a Dutch oven. It's excellent. –  justkt Nov 17 '10 at 15:02
    
I'd be very careful using enameled cast iron for "artisan" bread baking. Many of these sorts of recipes have the bread baked at between 400 and 450 degrees. Temperatures that high could damage the enamel (and could mess up phenolic handles too). I'd stick with non-enameled cast iron if using a dutch oven, or even better use an earthenware bread baker like La Cloche. Nothing is better for oven spring, but they are unfortunately hard to find in stores and shipping them is a 50/50 proposition as to whether it will arrive unbroken (see Amazon reviews). –  Cold Oatmeal Jan 5 '11 at 2:41
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I use an old pressure cooker. I drilled and tapped the lid for a 1/8" valve with a "dip tube". I hooked 1/8" copper tube to the valve and run it into the oven. When the cooker comes up to pressure, I put the bread in the oven and open the valve for ~10 - 20 sec. This blows super heated water into the oven which instantly flashes to steam. No liquid water comes in contact with any part of the oven of any stones or the bread.

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I use ice cubes on a baking sheet, on the lowest rack setting, as I want the steam to be gentle on the bread and it seems to me that boiling water would give off too much steam. I put in ice cubes in at the beginning and then about half-way through. Generally I am looking for a better crust on the bread rather than a rise though so maybe that is where the boiling water would be beneficial. I have used both baking stones and terra cotta planter bottoms and it did not affect or harm either.

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Use the wand from an espresso machine, aimed into the oven vent under the right-rear burner of your stove. Remove the burner first. Shoot the steam into the hole for about a minute. If you have a Scunci steamer, this will work too.

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This does not answer the question. The OP asked what the results of steaming are on the oven, not how to do it. –  rumtscho Jun 19 '13 at 12:27
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