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.)