Ice Cubes Are Fundamental For Crispier Bread Crust

Have you ever wondered why bread from a bakery always tastes, looks, and feels different than bread you make at home? Professionally baked loaves have that crisp and crackly, perfectly browned and shiny crust, with a soft and chewy inside, which seems almost impossible to recreate at home with the same beautiful results.

It can be confusing why the results are so different since the ingredients remain the same. It's all just flour, salt, and water after all. Even if you're a novice baker, the difference isn't always the skill set either. The key to gorgeous bakery-style bread is often the oven that professionals use, typically utilizing a steam injection oven to perfectly hydrate the surface of the bread as it bakes, creating that iconic crust.

However, there's no reason for home bakers to be discouraged. Without investing in a brand-new professional oven at home, there are ways to mimic the effects of a steam oven using your typical gas or electric range. Believe it or not, the key is ice cubes.

Ice cubes create a DIY steam oven effect

Professional bakers often churn out hundreds of loaves of bread a day, so the upfront investment of a pricey steam oven is essential. However, there is a genius hack to recreate the same effects of a steam oven at home using ice cubes. This trick will quickly hydrate the air around a loaf of bread as it bakes to achieve the same bakery-style results.

Start by placing a large, empty roasting pan at the bottom of the oven to warm as the appliance preheats. After your dough has risen, and the loaves have been shaped and scored, place them in the oven to bake. At this point, immediately add a bunch of ice cubes to the warmed roasting pan. The moment the ice hits the hot pan they will immediately start to melt, sizzle, and create a beautiful steam just like a professional oven. This steam will hit the outside surface of the bread and interact with the sugars in the dough. These sugars will then caramelize, and result in that beautifully browned and shiny crust.

Other ways to add steam when baking bread

While the ice cube method is the most effective way to turn your home oven into a steam oven, there are other ways to add steam while baking bread. One alternative is by simply using a spray bottle filled with water to mist the bread before it goes in the oven, doing so again a short time later. This provides minimal results, plus a good amount of heat is lost every time the oven door is opened to hydrate the loaf and these frequent temperature changes will have their own consequences in the bread baking process.

Another method involves baking the bread in a Dutch oven with a lid. The closed environment will capture the moisture given off during the cooking process and bring it back down onto the surface of the bread as it cooks. This is an effective method, however you are limited to only making round loaves that mimic the shape of a Dutch oven, so variations in size and look aren't possible. Also, you'll need to invest in a high-quality, and sometimes pricy, Dutch oven if you don't already have one.

Ultimately, the ice cube trick is the least expensive and most effective way to achieve that perfectly crisp professional bread crust at home. Whatever you do, don't even think about storing this perfect homemade fresh bread in plastic. For the best results, store your bread in an old-fashioned bread box and never look back!