How a steam oven can add oomph to your baking
Become a master baker with a built-in steam oven…
19 Aug 2021
Cooking with steam is packed with benefits, and it’s great for baking. So, if you want to add extra crunch to your cookies and bang to your buns - read on to find out what the big deal about steam is.
What’s so special about cooking by steam?
Cooking by steam has been around for centuries. It dates back to ancient China, and has been a common technique in European bakeries and restaurants since the 18th century.
Pressure cookers bought steam cooking into the modern kitchen, but they’re not for everyone. The fact that you can’t check on the progress of your food during cooking (not to mention the noise) is a big drawback for lots of people.
But in recent years, home cooks and bakers have been able to get in on the action with ovens that give you the option of using steam…
What are the benefits of using steam to cook or bake?
Steam is a great choice for budding star bakers and anyone looking to prepare quick and healthy meals. Instead of using a heating element for cooking, water is boiled to the point it turns into steam (212 degrees to be exact) and fills the oven cavity with moist heat. Water is better at conducting heat than air, so you don’t need to reach the same super-hot temperatures as normal ovens.
Cooking by steam is becoming popular because it has a lot to offer anyone cooking or baking at home. Here are a few of the most obvious benefits:
It’s versatile. You can bake, roast, grill, reheat and defrost with your steam oven. Use it for meat, fish, veg, bread, cakes, cookies, puddings, pasta… and lots more.
It’s healthy. Because steaming is such a gentle method, it locks in valuable nutrients to your meat, fish and veg dishes. It’s also a great alternative to using oils and fats.
It’s tasty. By combining baking with steaming in one appliance, you can create food that’s crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The humidity stops food drying out, so everything stays moist and delicious.
It's faster. You can cook loads of dishes in less time than a standard oven. For example, a piece of salmon that would take 20 minutes to cook in standard oven can be perfectly steamed in about 8 minutes.
Why is steam so good for baking?
Steam is great for baking because it keeps the inside of your favourite cakes and bakes soft, moist and tender. It also makes the exteriors crisp and golden.
If you’re into baking bread, using steam makes a massive difference. It helps stop your dough drying and cooking too quickly on the outside. Adding steam to the surface of your loaves keeps your dough pliable, giving it the chance to stretch and expand before it cooks. This results in a beautiful golden crust, and a soft open texture on the inside. Heaven!
What kind of steam ovens should I buy?
Looking for a steam oven? There are different types. There are ‘steam-only’ ovens that provide steam cooking functionality – but nothing else. On the other hand, there are combination ovens that let you cook using heat or steam. These are ideal if you want to keep your options open.
For example, the AEG BCS556020M SteamBake Mult-Function Oven can handle all sorts of cooking methods, including baking with steam. Simply pour some water into the round indentation at the bottom of the oven cavity, set the ‘True Fan Cooking Plus Steam’ function and press the ‘PlusSteam’ button. Now select the temperature, wait a few minutes until an initial burst of steam creates a humid atmosphere… and start baking!
Put in some fresh dough, and the humid environment evens out the heat inside to makes the dough rise smoothly. That humid heat then turns into dry heat, to create golden bakes and delicious crusts.
This SteamBake method works for anything that rises – doughs, pastries, Yorkshire puds and more. So it’s the perfect choice for any amateur baker or home cook that wants better baking results.
Give our steamed bagels a try…
Try this steam-cooked bagel recipe for yourself, and you’ll see what all the fuss is about! The great thing about this method is that it gives you great, authentic tasting bagels without having to go through the hassle of boiling them before you bake.
Ingredients (makes 10):
- 450g strong flour
- 300ml warm water
- Sachet of dried yeast
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- A small handful of poppy or sesame seeds
- Mix the yeast, sugar and 100ml of water in a jug. Leave for 5-10 minutes until it starts to get frothy.
- Add your mix to a big bowl with the rest of the water, salt and flour.
- Mix well! A mixer with a dough attachment is perfect for this job. But you can also do it by hand if you’re feeling energetic.
- Put the mixed dough onto a board and knead for 10 minutes, until it feels springy and elastic.
- Remember that big bowl? Give it a quick clean, put your dough into it, cover it with a damp tea towel and leave somewhere warm for 40-60 minutes.
- When the dough’s doubled in size, put it back on your board, punch it a few times and knead it for 5 more minutes.
- Divide into 10 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball, and stick your thumb in the middle. Give it a wiggle until the hole is around 3cm in diameter.
- Put your bagels on a baking tray, and leave them to prove for another 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds and stick them in the oven.
- If you’re using an AEG SteamBake oven, pour 100ml water into the bottom of the oven cavity, set the ‘Hot air’ oven function, and press the PlusSteam button.
- Now set the temperature, and wait 5 minutes for the humidity to build up.
- Put your tray of bagels into the pre-heated oven, and the steam goes to work straight away.
- Bake for 20 minutes, and they’re done.