One of our recipe testers, Betty Lee, who, like me, lives in Charlotte, brought by a beautiful hearth loaf that she baked using a steaming technique that makes a lot of sense and eliminates all the tricky pouring of hot water. She uses an aluminum roasting pan, like the ones used for roasting a turkey. Here's the method: Spray the bread with a mist of water, make the slashes or cuts, and transfer the dough to the oven (on a sheet pan or onto a baking stone--either way). Cover the loaf with the roasting pan and bake it with this "lid." The pan acts like a cloche lid, only much lighter and easier to remove. When the loaf is fairly well set (15 minutes for a large loaf, 10 for a baguette or small loaf), remove the lid and continue baking uncovered until the crust turns properly golden brown. Sounds like an easy solution for those who worry about cracking their oven window or not getting enough steam with the other methods, as the pan traps the moisture and creates a wonderful shiny crust and maximum oven spring (Betty did a side by side test and reports that the roasting pan increased oven spring by nearly 50%). If your results are anything like Betty's we might be on the verge of a breakthrough comparable to the Dutch Oven technique introduced by Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman in the New Yoork Times four years ago. This is pretty exciting stuff--I plan to save my Thanksgiving pans and use this method the next time I bake. Thanks Betty!!!
Send me your results at email@example.com, OR, and this is the other good news, I'll be announcing in our next post, after Thanksgiving, that we'll be setting up a new forum page for Q&A as well as reader exchanges regarding the new recipes featured in Artisan Breads Everyday. This will be part of the wonderful forum and gallery site set up by one of our testers, Mark Witt, last spring for testers to compare notes. I'll have full details next week. Once it's operational, we can communicate and share our results there.
Finally, for those who came to my class at The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in NYC last Sunday, thank you so much for your enthusiasm and flexibility (at late notice we had to delay the start of the class from 1 PM till 5 PM but ended up with 70 attendess instead of 60--talk about making lemonade out of lemons!). Thank you to everyone at ICE, especially Chef Andy Gold and his student assistants, for your support. While there, we had pizza at Keste in Greenwich Village, recently chosen best pizza in Manhattan by one magazine, and it was fabulous. Pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio is the real deal. It's a small place so go early or plan to wait. Also, thanks to fellow pizza freaks, Cary and Lillian (www.passion-4-pizza.com ) for picking me up at the airport and taking me to New Hyde Park and the legendary Umberto's, where we enjoyed their signature "Grandma's Pie" as well as other delights. The place was full at 2:30 in the afternoon, which says it all (and the restaurant is huge!). It was my first time and if lived nearby I'm sure I'd be a regular. Looks like I really need to consider writing a sequel to "American Pie"--there are so many places I still need to visit. Thanks, again, Cary and Lillian!
Till next week, may your bread always rise!
PS For those who are waiting for news on the pizza TV series, it's still in editing but I may have news soon about it. Hopefully by December (but no promises--these things take time).