Quick Recipes and Easy

Steaming and Preheating – Important Details in Baking (Part I)


A dry and hard crust tends to form honestly quickly on many yeast breads due to the nature of their formula. Once a crust is formed, bread dough can no longer expand in volume. Carbon dioxide, air, steam within the dough may still be expanding, but without significant leavening effect.

You can prevent this premature forming of crust by injecting moisture into the hot oven during the early stage of baking. This keeps surface of bread dough moist, allows it to rise longer, and ultimately produces a lighter loaf of bread.

Steam also facilitates starch gelatinization and caramelization of sugar on surface of breads. This results in a thin, crisp crust and wonderful brown color.

Steam should be injected into the hot oven at the same time as placing dough. A second shot of steam, a couple of minutes later, is beneficial.

Alternatively, place a pan in the lowest rack when preheating oven. Then pour ½ cup of hot water into this pan just before placing bread dough in the oven.

Preheating Oven

In the presence of heat, moisture from water, eggs, and other liquids turns into steam, exerting pressure on doughs (cookies, breads). This starts the leavening effect, and ultimately contributes to building structure of many baked goods, including breads and cookies.

Only a preheated oven can sufficiently provide enough heat to make steam. If baking starts in an oven that has not been preheated, steam is slowly produced as oven temperature increases. But, surface of dough will also start to bake and solidify at the same time as steam is produced.

This will limit the ability of dough to rise, and results in baked goods with less desirable shape and form.

Trinh Lieu is passionate about baking, especially cookies and breads. She made cookies-in-motion.com cookies-in-motion.com to share all she knows about cookie ingredients and preparation techniques.

Copyright 2006 by Trinh Lieu

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