Super Crusty Sourdough: Dutch Oven or Lava Rocks?

Discussion in 'Bread' started by J13, May 29, 2019.

  1. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    Hey, all. I'm a long way from baking up that first loaf of sourdough (still nursing a baby starter), but I've been doing my research and I'm curious to know about which baking method produces a better, more crackly crust: Dutch oven, or a baking stone on the upper rack with a pan of lava stones to create steam on the bottom.

    Obviously, I'd love to hear that the dutch oven will do just as well as the lava rocks...because, well, the lava rocks sound like a real pain. That method requires all these moving parts and the scary fact that there's going to be a cloud of super hot steam you need to avoid before closing the oven door. :confused: That said, I'm ambitious and want to create the best loaf possible in a home oven.

    Note: I've checked out the King Arthur website comparing methods, but they only compare the loaf on a bread stone with a pan of boiling water below to the dutch oven method (they rank them equal). The hot lava rocks evidently make a difference. The boiling-water-in-a-pan method doesn't create steam as continuously as the pouring-water-over-hot-lava-rocks method. This because the lava rocks capture the water in their craggy exteriors and keep it going longer and hotter (or so says Cooks Illustrated on the topic).

    I've searched to see if someone has already done such a comparison, but the King Arthur comparison is the only search result coming up. So...does anyone here use the lava rock method? Have you ever compared it to what you get baking the bread in a dutch oven?
     
    J13, May 29, 2019
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  2. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Sorry never used lava rock and don’t know anyone who does.

    But if you use a Dutch oven just make sure your knobs are oven safe to the temperature you’re going to bake at. I have three different brands of Dutch oven‘s with three different types of knobs. My Le Creuset, has a type of plastic knob. I’ve never put that one in the oven even though they say it’s safe up to 425°.

    I use a baking steel for my baguettes. I placed a pan of water on the oven floor for steam.

    I have cast iron reversible griddle that I’m
    going to try for baguettes to see how it works. My baking still is pretty small it’s only 14” so I can only make a 13” baguette. My cast iron griddle is almost 16”, so I’ll be able to make a longer baguette.
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 29, 2019
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  3. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    I was thinking about that point just this morning. My current dutch oven is a Staub with a nice metal knob on the lid, so no problem there.
    Ooooo! :cool: Baking steel! Drool. I've been wanting one of those, but my oven is an odd size (16" w x 20.5" deep). When I watch the steaming method, it usually involves a wide oven where the baking stone fits to one side and, down below, the pan for the water sits on the other side. So, there's a lot of room for billowing steam to waft up and fill the oven. Most baking steel is 14"W X 16L". That would fit my oven, but I it seems like it would also block most of the steam.

    I need to find the right baking "stone" for my little oven if I'm going to use steam.
     
    J13, May 30, 2019
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  4. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I’m still not sure how I feel about the baking steel. I’m not real happy with it. That’s why I’m going to try my cast iron griddle. I have a baking class next month on baguettes so I’m to ask about the best way to bake them in the home oven.
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 30, 2019
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  5. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    Let me know if the baking class recommends lava rocks ;)
     
    J13, Jun 1, 2019
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