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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Anonymous said...

I've been wanting to try bread in a pan for a while. I need to figure out how big my dutch oven is. Pretty bread!

Bear said...

The covered/uncovered part of the Lahey recipe is definitely a key selling point... but for those of us without bread machines, the no-knead part isn't trivial, either. As always, love your spirit of innovation and exploration and would appreciate thoughts on whether it'd still work as a no-knead variant....

Dave said...

Persephone, the pot need not be a Dutch oven. I have an insane example coming up that I cooked in a simple stainless mixing bowl with some odd sauce pan lid. The critical thing is to match the bowl size to lump of dough. The pre-proofed dough should be about 1/3 to 1/2 half the volume of the cooking vessel.

Bear, The worst part of Lahey's method I did not mention is the high temperature cooking. Manipulation of a blazing hot cast iron pan is almost a guaranteed scar, I've got a bunch. The fascinating part of this cooking method is the cooking vessel doesn't even need to be hot! I still can't believe it and it continues to be true with each variant I try.

The no knead part? Could be even more of a benefit in this rework. I'm imagining mixing a thick batter consistency, waiting, deflate, wait, cook?? Stay tuned... and thanks for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

No need for grapes or raisins or anything other than flour and water. A wild yeast and bacteria will make itself at home in your culture within 7 - 12 days if you feed and stir daily. If you actually use commercial yeast, you will never have anything other than commercial yeast in your "starter". It's a real waste of time and effort. No wild yeast will ever be able to compete with the commercial yeast that you have introduced to the culture. Any taste difference will be completely psychosomatic. Sorry to disappoint but its not sourdough, purist or not.

Dave said...

I've heard and read the same sources of conventional wisdom that commercial yeast (deadly stuff, laced with aresnic), when used for a starter dominates any wild yeast and will make a huge difference, but I've never seen any microbiological controls. I'm sure someone's done it, but most amateur home bakers just repeat conventional wisdom, weak. What your saying doesn't add anything to the discussion.