If you’re looking for the best loaf of bread you’ve ever baked, look no further than your combi steam oven. Whether it’s a regular sandwich loaf, dinner rolls, baguette, brioche or a dense fruit loaf, baking bread in a steam oven gives you a fine, moist crumb and chewy, glossy crust.
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I have heard from a lot of you that bread is high on your list of combi steam oven recipes to try, so settle in, because this post is all about baking bread in a steam oven. I promise, even if you aren’t the most confident of bread bakers, a golden, perfectly textured loaf really can be yours with minimum fuss. Hopefully today’s recipe will encourage you to try.
There is a Breads and Yeasted Doughs index page on this site, bursting with combi steam oven recipes like Date, Apricot and Seed Bread, New York Style Bagels, and this diet-defying Monkey Bread. So it’s apparent from the index that I love baking in my combi steam oven, but the most common loaf in our house, a humble sandwich bread, has so far missed the blog post train. Let’s fix that oversight, shall we?
A sandwich loaf elevated to new heights using combi steam
I could explain how to bake bread in a steam oven using many recipe examples, but this honey oat sandwich loaf recipe is my favourite for good reason. It’s simple to mix up, forgiving in the kneading process and makes a grand, evenly textured soft loaf. A touch of honey gives the barest hint of sweetness and a glorious aroma, while the oats add body, fibre and easier digestion to something which still passes as a white bread in my kids’ eyes.
Baking bread in a combi steam oven definitely has some major perks. The biggest is the fantastic texture your loaf will have, but along with that you should find your bread proves and rises evenly, and because the crumb is more moist than when cooked in a conventional oven, it stays fresher for longer.
Proving (or proofing) bread dough in a steam oven
While we’re on the topic of steam oven bread, I want to touch on the subject of dough proving in a steam oven. It’s something I get asked about a fair bit. Here are my FAQ’s about using a steam oven to prove your dough:
Can I prove dough in my steam oven? Yes, you can prove dough in your steam oven. It’s quick, even and keeps the dough nice and moist – basically the perfect environment for all those little yeast microbes to do their thing.
How long should I prove my dough in the steam oven? The quantity of dough in today’s recipe (that is, one large loaf or two smaller ones) takes around 30 minutes proving at 35°C/95°F to double in size for the first (bulk) prove, and similar for the second (formed-loaf) prove.
Be very watchful of the second prove for doughs which contain a lot of sugar such as brioche, fruit loaves or babka. I have had more than one overflowing bread tin in my steam oven thanks to a fast-rising and consequently over-proved sweet bread dough!
There’s an elephant in the room here, and it has to do with proving dough quickly: quick-proved bread doesn’t actually have the best flavour or texture. For that, you’ll want to prove slowly in a much cooler environment. A refrigerator is ideal. Everyone is different but I’ve found what works best for me is to do the first prove in my steam oven, then form my loaves or rolls and prove them overnight in the fridge. It means I can get my dough made, proved and formed in an afternoon or evening, then bake the next morning. It’s the best of both worlds. If I really want to bake the same day, I prove in the steam oven, form my loaf and do the final prove covered on the bench for around an hour and a half (my kitchen is generally around 20°C/68°F in the cooler months).
What temperature should I prove my dough at? That’s a bit variable (see above point). My steam oven won’t let me select a temperature below 35°C (95°F), but I’d prefer to prove at about 25-28°C for the best balance between quick rising and flavour. If you can select within that range, go for it. Essentially, the warmer your oven the faster the dough will prove. Whatever you do, don’t go above 42°C/107-108°F, as this is when the yeast will begin to overheat and die rather than multiply.
Do I need to cover dough when proving it in a steam oven? Nope. The humidity in the oven cavity means you can just pop the bowl or tray straight in.
Recipe: Steam Oven Sandwich Bread with Honey and Oats
Makes one large loaf as shown or two smaller ones (I use one of these fantastic sturdy loaf pans and just fit it all in one).
Although it contains honey, this is not at all a sweet loaf. The honey gives a lovely aroma, and feeds the yeast.
The oats break down almost completely but they give a nice toasty, nutty flavour without the nubbly texture of whole grains or whole wheat flour, neither of which my kids are keen on (sadly for me, as I love whole grains in bread). Oats are also more easily tolerated by the digestive system than modern wheat, so I like to use them wherever I can.
I mix and knead my bread dough in a KitchenAid mixer, so that’s how I’ve written the recipe below. You can certainly do it by hand, if that’s your preference. You’ll want to knead the dough by hand for 5-7 minutes after bringing it together in a bowl.
100g (1 cup) rolled oats
500ml (2 cups) boiling water
670g (about 5 cups) unbleached white bread flour
1 sachet (7g) or a scant 2 tsp instant yeast
1 tbs honey
2 tsp salt
1 tbs light flavoured oil (I use extra light olive or rice bran)
1. Put the oats in the bowl of a stand mixer and pour over the boiling water. Leave to stand for 15 minutes.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients, fit the bowl under the mixer with dough hook attachment and mix on low speed until a soft, sticky dough forms. Depending on your climate and altitude, you may need a little extra lukewarm water – I add anywhere up to half a cup.
3. Turn the mixer to a medium-low speed for about 5 minutes, until the dough is a cohesive, fairly smooth mass and mostly pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Set your steam oven to 35°C/95°F (or, if you can, lower - 28°C/82°F is perfect). Use the dough proving setting if you have one or the steam setting if you don’t. Put the bowl into the oven until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 minutes. You could turn it into a clean, oiled bowl first but I hate washing up and don’t find there’s any difference in my finished loaf from leaving it in the bowl it was mixed in!
5. Scrape the dough onto a floured bench. Gently press it out into a rectangle about 30cm/12” x 20cm/8”. Fold it lengthways into thirds, gently press back into a rectangle, turn it 90° and fold again (you won’t be able to see each one distinctly but you’ll have 9 layers now). Lift one of the ‘seam’ sides of the dough and roll it away from you, tightly tucking it as you go, so you end up with a neat, somewhat loaf-shaped blob a little smaller than your pan. The point of the tight rolling/tucking is to make sure the exterior of the loaf is stretched and smooth, rather than wrinkled or torn. This will give you a nice even rise and a smooth baked loaf.
6. Gently put the formed loaf into your pan, seam side down (don’t grease it, there’s no need). Tuck the ends down if need be so it looks nice and neat on top. Cover the pan loosely with a plastic shopping bag or a damp tea towel.
7. Time for the final prove: either put the covered pan in the fridge for 8-12 hours, or leave it at warm room temperature (20°C/68°F) for an hour. The dough will rise, but this prove is less about size than doneness. When it’s done, you’ll be able to gently press a finger into the dough and it will spring back readily. If your finger leaves a dent, it’s not ready. If your finger makes the dough deflate and sag as soon as you touch it, it’s over-proved (there’s no rescuing over-proved dough, sorry. Your bread is going to have a more open, crumbly texture than a perfectly proved loaf. But if you get it into the oven quick smart you’ll hopefully still have something acceptable).
8. About 15 minutes before you think you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven. Set to 220°C/428°F, combination steam setting. If your oven has variable humidity, use 30%. Bake the bread until it’s dark golden brown on top, about 20-25 minutes. I always worry it’s burning on top and am tempted to take it out earlier than I should. If you suffer the same problem, ignore your instincts and leave it in for a couple of minutes longer than you think.
9. Remove the bread from the oven and turn it immediately out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool. It will keep for a day or two at room temperature, however if you’re not planning to eat it all the first day I’d slice and freeze it. Individual slices can be defrosted in your steam oven.
So there you have it, combi steam oven bread! I hope this post is useful for any bread recipe you’d like to try making in your steam oven. Just follow the principles given and you’ll be well on your way to the best loaves you’ve ever made.
Happy steam oven cooking, see you here again soon.
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And if you’re after more delicious combi steam baking recipes, the Index page has plenty. If oats are your thing, have a look at the combi steam oven Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins video, or if you'd like something delicious to spread on your fresh bread, mix up a batch of Pea and Broad Bean Crostini topping.