Food for Thought
4:30 am
Wed November 9, 2011

What use is a cast iron frying pan full of rocks?

Hint: It has to do with baking.  But first take a look at picture #2 above.  I've had that picture for years and still have no idea what the thing is or does.  

If you do please share.  And now the answer to the question posed in today's headline.

Certain breads need steam in the oven while they bake.  Professional bread ovens have built-in steam injectors. I don't have a professional oven. I have an amateur oven and a cast iron frying pan full of rocks.  

Rocks in the oven

When I bake bread I put the pan full of rocks on the bottom of my oven when I turn it on. By the time the temp is where I want it that frying pan and the rocks in it are very hot. That's when I slide in the proofed dough and toss in a cupful of water to create a burst of steam.

So why the rocks? To increase the  surface area, thus creating a bigger burst of steam.

Plus it's cool to have a frying pan full of rocks sitting around in my kitchen because every now and then a visitor will ask "What's the frying pan full of rocks for?" And I can say "Ballast."

The show

In this Food for Thought,  Seattle Times food blogger Nancy Leson and I talk about all of the above,  non-stick pans (I'm a convert) and induction ranges from space. Hear all about it by clicking the audio gizmo at the top of the story.

And if you happen to know – or just want to guess – what picture #2 is please post below. Just kidding about the dollar a year for a million years prize I mention in the audio, though. I'm not up for that kind of  commitment.

"Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he's buying."

– Fran Lebowitz

Food for Thought” is a weekly KPLU feature covering the world of food as well as the thinking that goes into it. The feature is published here and airs on KPLU 88.5 every Wednesday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.