Adding Steam to a Bake Oven

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Yahoo discussion with John Fisher:

From: Ryan McCutchan <rmccutchan(at)gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2013
Subject: [MHAmembers] Steam in a wood fired oven

Thanks for all you suggestions in regards to the double decked oven it has started an interesting string of discoveries.

What are the thoughts on steam injection in wood fired bake ovens. How often is it done? Does it break down the bricks over time? If you don’t have steam injection, is there a way to achieve the same effect on the loaves.
ie. low ceiling, partially closing the damper at the tail end of the burn…?
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From: Eric Moshier <eric(at)solidrockmasonry.com>
Subject: Re: [MHAmembers] Steam in a wood fired oven

You can get really nice crust on your bread by just spraying water on the bricks at the beginning of  baking.  Right when you load the oven you mist a few squirts of water on the bricks, close the door, wait 1 min. then mist again and then close the door.  Bake until done.
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From: John Fisher <fishermasonry(at)yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [MHAmembers] Steam in a wood fired oven [2 Attachments]

hi ryan,

what eric says is true. it gives a good effect. it has a little drawback in that it is wasteful. you lose half the steam (and the heat it took to make it) through the open door. that is unless you count the spa effect as a plus in the bakery.

i have seen several steam systems that work for a while and then land in disuse. any permanent mounted system with pipes in a black oven takes too much abuse from the flames during firing. anything mounted in the mass is impossible to inspect, so the first clog is the last clog. we had, for a while, mounted a metal cone about the diameter of an ice cream cone horizontally in the side walls half way down the hearth. then the baker has a high-pressure spray nozzle on a long nose that reaches all the way through the shell, insulation, and mass to squirt a few seconds of mist with the doors closed. that works good. but now we have a better system based on a design by manfred enoksson:

on both sides for the hearth, you build an extra two inches of space. in those spaces you put slanting metal u-beams  (on three legs (with two they soon sag in the middle). the high end is just inside the baking door. on the baking end, you permanently mount a copper feed tube through the shell to fill the high end. then mount a funnel on it and fill a certain volume of water just after loading the bread. you soon learn how much water works best.
we also have a steam damper in the throat between hearths; just a plate of aluminum you put in after the ashes are raked in the morning.

if the oven is already built and there is no room for this system, put some ice cubes on your peel next to the last couple of loaves, or on your setter. it will be steam right after the doors are close. but droplets or spray introduced into the air is better for the longevity of the hearth bricks.

best,
john

fisher102

fisher101

fisher104
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From: “Alex Chernov” <alex_stovemaster(at)yahoo.ca>
Subject: Re: [MHAmembers] Steam in a wood fired oven

Hi John.
My perception was that your bakers do not use or almost don’t use steam injection in your low vault ovens. Was this my misperception or their technique changed or it just depends on baker? Does Manfred use steam in his double-decker?
Thanks,
Alex

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From: John Fisher <fishermasonry(at)yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [MHAmembers] Steam in a wood fired oven [2 Attachments]

hi alex,

glad you asked . i forgot to mention this. some do some don’t . lars gustavsson doesn’t use steam. he feels the bread steams itself well enough. this is not from a relaxed attitude toward quality. he is a real artisan:    http://www.vedugnsbageriet.se/

mena macken does i believe. this was an early oven, so they spray in mist with a long nozzle and then quickly close the doors.

karin lorin has the side spray tube i mentioned. steve bushway helped on that one:  http://www.bostallets.se/

manfred doesn’t have his own bakery. he is traveling all the time giving courses and also quality controlling saltå kvarn’s bread.

dan brouwer uses manfred’s system :      http://jarnavedugnsbageri.se/

we also installed it postfacto at printz bageri :  http://www.printzbageri.se/

and then again with the new oven in lom, norway (fotos attached in previous post), though i’m told morten hasn’t broken that one in yet. he hasn’t updated his website yet either to show the renovations at his bakery. it wasn’t just a new wood-fired oven, it was all new machines, a new electric oven, a new facade and a big round chimney. he turns over more than two million dollars a year business with sweet rolls as the mainstay (think big danish, but norwegian). his customers were practically licking plywood scraps at the construction site waiting for him to reopen:    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5inYTB1zGM

here are a couple more views of the steam system. i’ll post again with some shots of the new facade/chimney…

best,
john

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From: A Guerlain <oldstoneheat@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [MHAmembers] Steam in a wood fired oven

In additional to all the wisdom so far put out, we’ve had feedback from people with door systems the full width of the hearth, that they are able to build up adequate steam by loading one section at a time.  Some will steam, with methods mentioned already, for the very first third or half of the oven, but once they start cycling though the rest of the oven there seems to be plenty of steam for most, as Kiko mentioned, from the bread itself.  We’ve started calling it circular baking, though obviously on a rectangular hearth.

It’s my impression also that the amount of steam you’ll get from the bread itself to some extent depends on the kind of bread you are baking, hydration of the dough, etc..  I’ve seen bakers that use very wet doughs have steam billowing out during the bake, while others that use lower hydrations struggle more with steam.

Best to all and, as always, very interesting conversations!

Antoine

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From: Derek Lucchese <bothhandsbread(at)yahoo.ca>
Date: Mon, 30 Sep 2013
Subject: Re: [MHAmembers] Steam in a wood fired oven

Hey folks,
Great, lengthy discussion, and I’ll add a few things from my experience.

I’ve been baking in a 4′ x 6′ Alan Scott oven with 10″ mass for about 11 years now — baking once or twice a week for sale at my local farmer’s market.  I’m baking about 200 loaves off of one firing these days, but several years ago I would average around 500 loaves for a Saturday, closer to 6 or 700 in the fall when the market has lots of vegetables and customers.  Back then I would need to start baking with the oven very hot — thermocouples 1/2″ from the surface of the hearth and dome read 700 and 750 deg. F respectively.  If I started with a cooler oven the last couple of oven loads would not get proper oven spring ( I can fit about 36-42 loaves in at a time, which means I was regularly doing over 12 oven loads).  Those first couple of oven loads of dough, which came straight out of the walk-in cooler,  I always baked with the door off — the door left on, trapping steam from wet doughs (sometimes more than 90 percent hydration) would quickly burn.  In any case at those temps the window for proper baking (between raw and burnt) was about 30 seconds or so — keeps you on your toes.  By the third oven load I could leave the door on.  My loaves have thin, chewy crusts (not sure what kind of  leather they’re like Tom :-).  I can’t say they’re shiny, because most are whole grain sourdoughs, and therefore fairly dark.  Once the oven has cooled below 600 I’ll bake loaves  with fruit (the sugars burn easily at higher temps) and one yeasted kind made from sifted whole wheat.

Again, great discussion. And the most important result of good ovens is that it encourages good baking.  Cheers, derek

Derek Lucchese
http://www.bothhandsbread.ca

Both Hands — Bread, Pizza, Wood-Fired Ovens, Masonry Heaters, Workshops
RR #1
South Gillies, ON
P0T 2V0
807 473 4599
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Last modified: October 1, 2013, by norbert
Created: September 27, 2013, by norbert