When you bake your bread, remember that you need to be aware of the heat of the pizza stone when you are baking bread, not the heat of the oven. The pizza stone takes time to retain enough heat to radiate it back through your bread, so make sure you pre-heat your oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The good news is that by storing heat, the pizza stone helps regulate the heat of your oven, so that it will not fall as far, or as fast, when you have the door open to add your loaves and inject steam.
I find that setting your oven to 50-75ºF higher than the temperature you want to bake your bread allows the oven to naturally fall back to the right temperature when you add your dough. For example, if you want to bake a baguette at 450ºF, set the oven to 525ºF. By the time the oven is closed up and your baguette is baking, the oven will be only slightly below 425, and will catch back up quickly.
You are now ready to create Steam in your oven.
After the first few minutes, the crust of your bread will set, and you do not need to worry about steaming again. I have read that professional bakers do not like getting the loaves wet, as it can give them an irregular appearance, but my experience is that my bread likes the moisture, and it helps create a shiny crust. You can experiment for yourself.
I know it sounds like a lot of work for a little bit of crust, but it is the essential step in creating bread that you want to eat, and share with your friends and family. Once you have done it a couple of times, and it becomes a ritual that you understand and can do in your sleep. When I first started steaming, it seemed labor-intensive, and almost threatening, but as I have continued on, I have found that it has faded into being just being another step in the process.
One thing to note, I have heard that you can crack the hot tempered glass in your oven door, or oven light, by hitting them with cold water, so be careful. You can lay a towel over the oven window if you are worried about your oven.
You should also experiment with putting the pizza stone on the bottom and the top of the oven, alternating with the location of the baking/steam tray. I found that my oven tended to get hot at the bottom, and burn the bottom of my loaves before the tops were done when I have the stone on the bottom.
Is it ready to come out?
I thought it was interesting to learn that the temperature on the inside of a loaf of baking bread is as important to getting the right and the texture and brownness of the crust. At high temperatures of around 400ºF, chemical reactions in the dough inside the loaf set the texture from the crumb (the inside), and give it the chewy firmness that everyone likes.
There a couple of ways of tell whether bread is done. One way it to buy a temperature probe, and simply test the inside of the bread when the crust looks right. If the inside is 205ºF, and you like the look of the crust, take it out -- you are done.
On the other hand, the basic premise of these pages is that we believe that we can weave such interesting pursuits as making bread, espresso, pizza, and great good into our lives, without making a dramatic shift in our lifestyles, or becoming professional hobbyists. So if you think that buying an electronic temperature probe and checking your bread for perfection is the straw that breaks the camel's back, and the entire venture sounds too difficult and time-consuming -- don't do it. You can definitely decide if you bread is done by sight, touch and trial-and-error.
If the crust is a nice shade of brown, and the loaf gives you a hollow sound when you tap it -- your bread is probably done. Check the bottom and the top, and see if they are baking at the same speed. You might need to raise or lower you oven temperature, or move the pizza stone, next time to get the two in sync. The same is true with the crust and the crumb (inside). If your crust is dark brown, and moving from nutty to bitter, while the crumb is still doughy, cool down the over to give the internal temperature time to catch up.
But in truth, even these steps are not absolutely necessary. I so believe that you can make bread work for you that I am certain that you can even make better bread than your supermarket with your eyes closed. Follow the recipe, the ritual, the temperature and time that these pages describe, and pull the bread out when the timer goes off. It will be close to the mark, and you will be pleased with the result.
Take a minute to read more about Making Steam in a conventional oven.
Your Pizza Stone bread is now done, and just needs a little Cooling.