The purpose of rigging your oven for hearth baking is to similate the high-heat steam-baking that is done in professional kitchens when baking artisan (or very "lean") breads. The goal of hearth baking for your artisan breads is to enjoy loaves that look, feel, and taste as good or better than those from a professional bakery. While there are "hearth baking equipment" sets out there, they will take at least about $200 of your money. I personally cannot afford that luxury.

First, use a baking stone or unglazed quarry tailes placed on the lower level of the oven. Using a peel or the back of a sheet pan sprinkled with semolina or cornmeal to proof the loaves. Either one can then be used to slide the loaves directly onto the baking stone or tiles. The alternative to a stone is to bake the loaves directly on the sheet pan, preferably lined with parchment paper before sprinkling with the semolina or cornmeal. Baking in this direct manner won't be practical when baking enriched doughs that are difficult to hold their shape.

Use a double-steaming technique allows the bread additional time for that "oven-spring" that we all talk about in the Baking Circle. It lends a nice glaze or shine to the bread abd develops a nice crisp crust. The steam is generated during the first few seconds of baking. There is no benefit to steaming late in the baking process because, after a couple of minutes, the crust has set.

Begin to preheat your oven to 25-50 degrees higher than the temperature required by your particular recipe. While your oven is preheating, place an empty old cast iron frying pan on the top shelf or on the bottom of the oven (using a sheet pan for this purpose isn't advisable as they tend to warp at heat temperatures). Have hot water standing by before loading the loaves (using ice cubes or ice water isn't advisable as that robs too much heat from the oven). Also have a spray bottle filled with tap water standing by.

First load the loaves onto the tiles or bake direclty onto the baking sheet. Then use pot holders and work at an angle to carefully add the hot water to the hot steam pan. Spray the oven walls (not the oven light!) and quickly close the oven door. Wait 30 seconds and spray again. Wait another 30 seconds and spray again.

After this, lower your oven temperature to the temperature required by the partcicular recipe. Don't forget to check your loaves about half-way through the baking time to check for uneven browning. If the loaves are browning unevenly, rotate the loaves 180 degrees and finish baking. If the loaves are browning tioo fast, cover them loosely with foil and reduce the oven temperature another 25 degrees.

Come on---Browse Around---Let's Bake Some Bread!
(Click on the title)
Different Flours: Why King Arthur's Flour is Best
The Process
Hearth Bread Baking
Sourdough and Starters
My Favorite Yeast Bread Recipes
My Favorite Quick Bread Recipes
Where I buy my "Stuff"
Round Table Member Bread Photos
Special! Pan De Campo by Dr. John Raven
Another Special! Wingboy's Lovely Hole-y Bread
One More Special! Special! Breadbakered's Crocodile Bread
Back to My Breadbox
Back to my Kitchen Front Page

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