The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dutch Oven/Combo Cooker vs. Baking Stone

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HappyHighwayman's picture
HappyHighwayman

Dutch Oven/Combo Cooker vs. Baking Stone

I originally started on a baking stone, then switched to a dutch oven, then went back to the baking stone after my bread class. In the class he taught us to spray down the bread every minute for the first 10 minutes with a fine mist spray bottle. Now I'm going back to a "Combo cooker" (effectively a cast iron dutch oven).

Apparently a dutch oven keeps the moisture in. I've seen many baking shows where they throw a cup of warm water onto a metal roasting pan underneath the stone to provide steam, but the chef in my baking class scoffed at this idea. What are your experiences with keeping the bread moist?

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I loose too much oven heat and steam that way.  I'm a covered container baking person.  My favorite combos are two small heavy pans rim to rim and two woks rim to rim,  no stone.  

If you use the site search box, you will find many ways to steam your oven.  Try typing in steaming the oven or how to get steam into oven or  steaming method.    The steam pan at the bottom of the oven works real well if lava stones are lining the bottom to prevent water spraying or splashing out and it is not too close to the stone.   Cover your glass door with a big fluffy towel first to prevent water droplets from shattering glass while messing with water.   Use lower heat with convection to preheat and when placing the uncovered dough into the oven change to upper and lower heat without the fan (no convection.)  A natural drop in heat will occur from opening the door and changing the settings.

yy's picture
yy

Spraying the bread is definitely not the best way to do it. You lose oven heat opening the door so frequently in the first part of the bake, and that much moisture directly on the loaf can make the crust quite leathery. Here are some of the methods I use for steaming:

1. for boules, I use a cast iron dutch oven, covered during the first part of the bake and then uncovered to finish.

2. for batards and other larger loaves, I use a 6 inch deep, half size hotel steam pan inverted over my baking stone, which I preheat along with the oven. Just before inverting the pan over the loaded loaf, I spray the inside with some water to generate a bit more steam. I've seen a variation on this method that involves drilling a small hole into the hotel pan and inserting steam through that hole with a pressurized fine mist sprayer (like the ones made for gardening).

3. for long loaves such as baguettes that can't be covered by the steam pan, I use the method described in the following link:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/20162/oven-steaming-my-new-favorite-way

 

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

love Sylvia's steaming method for its convenience and fantastic amount of steam it generates if you use two of them.  We also like inverting the bottom of a DO over the boule on a hot stone too.  I use an aluminum one that heats really fast.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

loading a kilo of shaped bread dough into a bowling-ball size Dutch oven heated to 500° I found scary. I have been many years a klutz. Yes, I am aware starting with a cold DO is an option. Nevertheless, I figured I'd stick to loading the loaves onto a preheated stone, and filling the oven chamber with steam as best I could.

Here's a link to the way I've been creating steam for the more than six month now. I'm so satisfied with this approach I haven't thought of finding a new way since the first day I tried it.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/28166/steaming-container-option-update

David G

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Hi David,

I like this set up and would be interested in purchasing these, but I can't tell from the description if you get one apparatus per order, or two.  Amazon describes it as a 2-piece set, but does that include the cover? 

Thanks for any clarification.

Barbara

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Hi, Barbara

Yes, one purchase is two pans each with a perforated lid. I suggest you season them just like you would a new  cast iron skillet, even with that they will rust slightly, but it's nothing to worry about. I don't use the perforated tops. Instead, I roll up four towel fragments, and place two of them at the ends of each pan. I do that to reduce sloshing when I move them to and from the oven. Here is a pic.

David G

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

I appreciate the help.  I think I'll give these a try.  My current favorite steaming method is Theresa Greenway's inverted roasting pan lid, which gives wonderful results,  but you're limited to baking one loaf at a time. For purposes of fuel economy, I am looking for an alternative. 

Barbara

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I bake on a stone. In a 22" wide oven I can bake 3, 1lb or 2, 1.5 lb Sourdough loaves; 3, 21" baguettes, and a host of other combinations in one bake.

David G

fminparis's picture
fminparis

I only use an upside down dutch oven for boules, with the loaf on a parchment covered cookie sheet.  For baguettes I use "custom made" sheet metal boxes to cover the loaves, also with the loaves on a parchment covered cookie aheet.  No spraying, ice cubes, boiling water, handheld steamers, etc.

whoops's picture
whoops

I have started baking all my breads in loaf pans, and I simply invert another loaf pan on top, bake half the time with the second pan on top, half without. My loaves sing to me when I take them out, and I do not worry about steaming or boiling water or anything else. I am not a fanatic about the shape of loaves (most likely because I have dismal luck with shaping things) and I like that the loaves I make in the bread pans are easy to slice in my bread slicing guide. If I am making a large enough bake that I run out of empty bread pans, I will break down and use tin foil to cover. Not quite as good, but works in a pinch. Sometimes 4 loaf pans is simply not enough!

HappyHighwayman's picture
HappyHighwayman

In the Tartine video on their site it appears that for their friend he lets the dough rise/proof overnight in the same bread pan that he ends up baking it in, does this make sense as a method?

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

There is another quite famous video showing Chad teaching how to make his bread and he puts in into a cold DO and then into a hot oven.   No reason not to do final proof in the same pot.  Have it often and works great.  You can also start in a cold oven too.  Just add the time it takes to come up to baking temperature to the time you would normally leave the lid on.  My oven takes about 2o minutes to come up to temnperature and I usually leave the lid on for 20 minutes - so I leave the lid on for 40 minutes when starting with a cold pot in a cold oven.

It is amazing all the different ways to make sa loaf of bread.

Pat in SoCal's picture
Pat in SoCal

I use the dutch oven for boules...lowering them into the oven on parchment paper. Today I tried soaking the paper first to increase steam. Very nice results!

highwaymanco's picture
highwaymanco

i don't post here much but for obvious reasons (the "h" word") i thought i would add to your thread...

i find both successful

i am not a professional baker but wife and i eat bread (which i bake) at almost every meal...

i have no problem working with heavy cast iron

although i will say i cook with the "combo cooker" upside down as well as cast iron skillets with a matching dutch oven on top..

here's the results from today

white sourdough

i will post a picture of the skillet/oven combination if asked

personal note

i visit here often and absolutely enjoy learning from so many competent bread bakers

HappyHighwayman's picture
HappyHighwayman

Those look great. I find that recipe really makes a difference. For example, these 4 loaves were all done in the combo cooker, with the top ones being Tartine recipe made with wild starter/leaven, and a wetter dough and look how beautiful (light rye):

 

Yet these were done with standard yeast, 20% whole wheat flour, shorter rise:

 

 

Not really as nice looking.

 

highwaymanco's picture
highwaymanco

great stuff...

when i use a stone it is terracotta tile...

cheap where i live at about 2 dollars for a 16"x16"x3/4" piece...

for all i generally prefer a little higher hydration than most recipes call for

here's the crumb structure of one of those loaves

certainly not a pro...but good eats...

and here's my skillet/dutch oven configuration