Every home baker tries to get more steam into his/her home oven, and most always we fall short. I’ve tried spraying water on the oven walls, pouring water into a cookie sheet in the bottom of the oven, dousing the loaves themselves with water as they go in among other strategies and never been satisfied. This is especially frustrating because any of us can produce perfectly steamed boules simply by cooking them in a cast iron dutch oven and leaving the lid on for the first 20-25 minutes of the bake.
Today I had the inspiration to try recreating the dutch oven environment with my baguettes by using a caterer’s aluminum tray as the lid over my half-sheet baking surface. The tray was the right width but a little long so I folded some aluminum foil over the ends. The tray was preheated along with the baking sheet and I sprayed my loaves and the inside of the tray with water as it went in, then again at 10 minutes for good measure, and removed the tray at 20 minutes to finish the bake.
The results were pretty, pretty good, definitely as good a crust as I’ve achieved on an open pan in my home oven. I’m going to continue to tinker with the fit of the tray and the baking sheet, maybe using some heat proof tape or just finding a pan that’s a better fit. But I’m very encouraged with this first effort.