May 11, 2021 - 3:16pm
steam with WFO's?
In planning out a mud oven, I just realized it seems steam is a deal-breaker, no?
I wouldn't mind if I knew I'd be loading the oven each time, but I don't believe that will be the case. I suspect it's a problem we all face - wanting to size a hearth that will handle larger bakes, but not so big that we don't get the benefit (steam, from a packed oven)?
Anyway, yes, steam. For that matter, though I know The Bread Builders talks about it and plenty of bakers successfully steam their masonry ovens - anyone experience issues with steam, and either their mud or masonry ovens?
Brick ovens are sealed chambers with no vent once the door is on. Fashion a heatproof door that fits tightly. Your home oven vents (a lot) by design and therefore needs steam. You are correct that theoretically, more loaves would be needed to self steam. I personally would say go big and do not expect to get the exact same result as inside. The oven is completely different and that's part of what makes it fun. The combo cooker approach is meant to mimic the inside of a brick oven.
I built a 43" diameter firebrick dome oven and I stopped spraying water inside, because it vaporizes and escapes before you get the door back on and I noticed no difference spraying vs not spraying. I did load it with 18lbs of dough each time, but there were times when I would bake one giant loaf (5-8 lbs) and they turned out tasty.
Fantastic, thanks Michael, really helpful. It's an incidental question but with 18 lbs of dough, would you mind sharing your hearth dimensions - 43 x L? I anticipate not much more than 12 lbs or so, 36" W x 48" or thereabouts. Not sure if I'm sizing right, just going on 14" boules 2 x 3, with about 2" on either side. I seem to recall Allen Scott has an optimal ratio for L/W, but I might be spacing.
Edit: sorry, just recalled you said dome oven. Sounds like a great oven.
My 43x32 Allen oven tends to run 9-10 loaves from 800-1000g per loaf. I’ve had steam pour out the door when checking the bread so that works well. I’ve been baking two batches and am still learning how to run the oven to saturate enough heat for that. But they are approaching what I get inside in a clouche so that’s a win. The Allen Scott Oven size really depends on brick size and mortar size etc. Had a fun building mine :D
The most impressive setup I've seen for adding steam was described by "Faith in Virginia" on the Forno Bravo forums using a pressure cooker to generate steam. I'd recommend searching for that forum, but basically she replaced the nipple in the lid (where the weight rests) with a T (oriented like this |- so that it was straight up with a branch off to the side). The nipple screwed back into the top of the T and a copper pipe ran from the branch through a small hole in the oven. A ball valve between the T and the copper pipe allowed her to turn it on and off. The pressure cooker sat on the burner for a turkey fryer. She could bring it up to pressure and leave it there until she needed the steam, then open the valve and fill the oven with steam. As I said, if you can find her posts, you'd get a better picture of what she did -- or improvise on your own based on what I've described.
I do spray with a “for the purpose only” small pump garden sprayer. I’ve used a pan before too, but prefer the sprayer. While some steam does get out, there’s still plenty left. I will often spray a second time to about 10 minutes in. It’s fairly easy to crack the door just enough to get the wand of the sprayer in. This is in a 36” brick dome with 6-8 750g loaves. I’d agree that larger bakes do not need steam, though.