Concerning Crust: I heat up a 4" x 4" X 1" block of steel on a burner for
about 30 minutes till its 500-600 degrees F, place it in an old roasting pan
(using tongs!), place the pan in the bottom of the hot oven, slide in the rizen
bread, pour 24 oz of water into the roasting pan and close it all up. Great
volumes of staem are generated, which:
a) keep the dough's surface moist & elastic longer than without the steam,
so that the bread rises higher, and
b) creates a thin chewy crust.
I remove the pan & remaining water after 15 min or so (Be careful, steam
burns!) and let the bread finish cooking as normal. I usually make "freeform
loaves" (i. e., baked on pizza tiles on an oven rack, without a bread pan) so
that the crust is an "all over" thing.
Julia Child recommends this method for "French Bread". She uses a common brick;
I thought a brick might crack, and had the steel, so I use it.