Crusty breads in a pan using passive steam

Recently I was poking around Ruhlman's Ratio and noticed his raving of the cooking a boule in the covered, then uncovered, pot as the most valuable part of Lahey's no knead bread. I've had some luck with this, but the results weren't always consistent, but I think it's because of the hydration level of the dough inside. I wanted to explore this more.

Last weekend I made a sourdough starter. I don't know if this really counts as a sourdough starter, but it's close enough. I made a poolish of 1:1 flour:water (w/w) and a ca. 1/8 t yeast and let it ferment overnight, dumped out all but ca. 50 g and refreshed a few times over the next few days with 1:1 flour:water (100 g each) and by the 2nd-3rd refresh, considered it a starter. Purists, go stomp on grapes or dissect a rasin or whatever it is you do to get a starter, I'm busy.

I plopped a 100 g of the starter into water (300 g) and unbleached white flour (Montana Sapphire, 500 g) and salt (9 g) and let it knead in a bread machine.* The first rise went overnight and formed it into a boule and placed it in a covered sauce pan to proof until "double," always a tricky estimation on a sourdough - in this case 5 hours, but it's tough to overproof a sourdough, so don't fear. I baked it in a simple 3 3/4 qt sauce pan covered for 40 minutes at 425, removed the cover and baked until brown on top.

*Bread machines are abundant and about $5 in any thrift store.

Notes to me
-Cast iron isn't needed for this capture of steam (steam from the dough alone is referred to by some as passive steam), in this case, I only used a medium heavy saucepan.

-Cooking like this, as in the Baparoma steam pan, doesn't even require the oven to be preheated

-This covered/uncovered method appears incredibly robust compared to any baking on a stone or other surface I've tried (with regard to spring and crust).

-I don't like the size of the Baparoma steam pan and may fabricate my own covered aluminum/ss/? pan, more efficiently sized for the oven based on this and ongoing expts.  Lowes has some conveniently sized pieces of metal to work with.  I'm thinking about 24" long and cylindrical with a slightly flat bottom and loose fit lid ...

-If anyone has ever heard of another term for passive steam in this context, please let me know via the comments, thanks.

(Did anyone catch the white squishy hot dog rolls in the background of the first image?  Hah, I'll eat anything.)
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Roasted Legumes: lima bean edition

Given my recent fear of the purported evils of high glycemic foods, I've been interested in anything to prevent my 2 pm attack on the vending machine for that 2 oz pack of Cheese Its I lust for. Some time ago, I posted an interesting snack of roasted cannellini beans. They were a great roasted legume and clearly a good snack even Atkins might approve of.

I've dabbled with the recipe since then; some problems during roasting caused irregularities in the final bean. Some were soft, others ethereal and crisp. This time, I chose Lima to practice with. Aside from over salting them, the texture on these is what I was looking for, uniformly crisp. I think the key is overcooking the bean prior to roasting.

A pound of small lima beans were cooked overnight at barely a perk on the stove. They were overcooked but still hanging together. See final pot of cooked beans.

cooked very well, no al dente here

I drained the beans (carefully, they're kind of fragile) and dumped them in a big roasting pan, squirted them with olive oil and sprinkled salt (mistake, they were cooked in salted water and didn't need this final dash of salt). I didn't work to hard to break up the plopped pile o' beans. As the oven dried them out, I started giving the pan a shake every 30 minutes or so. Eventually all the beans separated into their own crispy goodness and the batch was finished in about a couple hours. Here's the final product. For those couting calories, the oil added prior to roasting was only about 20 grams per pound and the dry-roasted weight about 90% of the starting bean weight. So, I'd estimate a 30 gram sample (1 ounce) to be about 90 calories, 22 grams carbs and 7 grams fiber. Other beans would definitely be good too, but cook them well for a uniform final roasted texture.

final product (go away Cheese Its!)


The Baparoma Steam Pan and my first baguette with it

I recently learned of a pan called a Baparoma steam pan. The company is out of business and the pans can only be found for sale used. I scored one recently on Ebay, pricey. It was $80, but I've been pursuing crusty baguettes for too long not to get it. It's a historical artifact to me.

It's a simple idea.  Two tablespoons of water in the bottom (far left pan, 15 ml center, 7 mL on either side), the middle pan goes on top of that, the baguette sits in the middle of the second pan and the lid goes on while the loaf proofs.  Uncover, dock the loaf, cover and place the assembly into a 425F oven for 20 minutes, then take off the cap and let it cook another 10-12 minutes, remove and crackly, shiny goodness.  A near flawless baguette.  Superior volume, crackly razor-sharp crust, lovely taste.

Nice ears from the oven spring

Frickin' perfect
So, why am I pissed?  It's a crutch.  A (low output) link from a pro steam deck oven to a home oven that I haven't been able to duplicate in any of my attempts.  I'm frustrated.  Look at the damn perfect loaf.  Just frigging awesome.  So. Angry.

PS I learned of this at The Fresh Loaf, one of the best bread baking forums I've ever read. I think mostly home bakers, but pretty darn skilled bakers and nice people.

Was it worth the $80? To me? Knowing the result, I'd have paid 10X that. Now I need to crack it and figure out a home oven workaround.


simply sublime

sorry for the mediocre image
During the great 2011 baguette giveaway The Kate was kind enough to stop by and give me some precious loot - Jam!!  This one,  now depleted, was Strawberrry.  It was sublime and got our mornings off to a special start.  Thanks Kate.