In Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, we talked about a way to get steam into the oven to create a great, crispy, caramelized crust on lean (un-enriched) loaves: pouring water into a pre-heated METAL (not glass) broiler tray or other pan just before you close the oven door. To be extra-safe about your glass oven window, protect it from the water with a towel before you pour the water; remove the towel before closing the oven door. Some older non-tempered glass windows can crack if you get water on them when they’re hot. This metal-tray method works well in most ovens.
But some ovens are a bit temperamental about this. Really large ovens, or really well-vented ones, and in many cases, professional-quality ovens installed in homes, seem to let the steam escape and you end up with a dull, pale-colored crust that never gets crisp. We’ve got a video of some excellent alternatives… (more…)