Many bread recipes say to introduce steam into the oven at the start of baking. Steam used this way serves to keep the crust moist for a few minutes longer than would happen in a dry oven, which gives the crust the chance to expand during oven spring. Oven spring is caused by the yeast’s drying burst of energy as the temperature rises from room temperature past the point where the yeast all dies off. The water vapor or steam also provides a necessary bit of extra moisture for the browning reactions that occur during baking. If the oven is fairly moist during the first 10 minutes of the baking period, we stand a good chance of baking a loaf with good loft and color.
The problem is getting the steam into the oven in the right amounts and at the right time. The easiest solution is to buy a commercial oven with steam injection equipment built-in. That’s not usually on the build sheet for a home kitchen, so we have to figure out a substitute.
The first method you might think of is just to pour water on the oven floor and call it done. This isn’t a good idea, as it does evil things to the oven floor, like leave a hard film on it, or rusts it out. Don’t do this.
Many cook books say to place ice cubes in a heated pan that you have placed on the floor of the oven. Good try, but why would anyone place ice in a heated oven? People who advocate ice cubes confuse the sizzle with boiling — just because a piece of ice is sizzling doesn’t mean it is releasing any more water vapor than a bit of water that is slowly boiling. In fact, just heating the ice to the melting point, converting it to water and then raising the temperature to the boiling point takes energy out of the oven system. Don’t do this.
The answer is to boil water in a pot and then pour the boiling water into the pan on the oven floor. This gets the proper amount of water into the oven at a high enough temperature that it won’t take too much heat out of the oven system and will convert quickly to the steam we need.
The only problem is keeping our hands and face away from the blast of hot water vapor that will come out of the oven when we pour that cup or so of boiling water into the pan. Enter the Funnel.
By using the funnel, you can pour the boiling water into the oven and not get hurt. Take a look at this interesting piece of equipment and I’ll bet you agree.