The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

why a dutch oven?

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jimtr6's picture
jimtr6

why a dutch oven?

I bought a decent cast iron dutch oven because I wanted to conserve and bake in the wood stove, well after four hours and one grindstone I got enough material ground off that it fits in the stove, but have not come close to managing the coals for the right temp, and seeing wood burning season is coming to an end (thank God) and everything I read is done in the traditional oven that's where I'm at. But I've never read anything on why the dutch oven is used, what advantage it has, maybe a more concentrated even heat, maybe keeping a moisture level higher (does anyone spritz with water?), I don't know, but would like to.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Yeah, dutch ovens get really hot and radiate a lot of heat evenly and intensely.  Certainly not necessary though. I just use one of the enamel steel soup pot and it works fine.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

to end up the TFL Hall of Fame one day with John's Turkey roaster :-) Both make some of the best bread found around Vancouver!   Great to see that cheap works as good as expensive every once and awhile!

BobBoule's picture
BobBoule

Being new to baking I didn't bother with the dutch oven but after a few attempts that were acceptable (certainly edible), i used a covered Pyrex casserole dish and it worked OK but I really wanted to make some big boy bread so I broke down and got a proper dutch oven. The bread is amazing now, a crunchy dark crust, a thoroughly cooked and moist interior, so I'm now a believer. I seem to have read here somewhere that dutch oven steams the bread nicely while also pushing a lot of heat into it sickly which somehow makes it cook better. I'd be interested in knowing the technical reasons for its use, now that I have seen the results for myself.

jimtr6's picture
jimtr6

The 9" pizza stone to put on the bottom arrived today as well, though the stone was my own idea and maybe unnecessary, I'm going to lower the rack to the bottom as well, I saw a Youtube video of one done in the dutch oven and the guy put the mic near the crust after baking (the way everyone recommends, covered, then uncovered), anyway he pushed down on the crust and got the best thin crust crunchy sound, it was almost music, he said it was due to the added moisture in the oven along with the top removed to finish it

BobBoule's picture
BobBoule

can be daunting for newbies like me, if you want to get a nice enameled one with a good warranty. Fortunately for you, you can occasionally find those premium priced dutch ovens (french ovens) at Goodwill's online auction site. Just before I picked up a new one recently, I visited all the local Goodwill stores around here and just could not find any dutch ovens so I purchased a new one. Naturally, after I purchased the new one, a friend told me that she's been buying premium cookware at the Goodwill auction site and saving a ton of money in the process. Thought I'd pass along this tip to other newbies so they can start experimenting with this technique.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

In Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson recommends the use of the Lodge Combo Cooker, a cast iron set of frying pans, one deep, the other shallow, which works perfectly for making the Basic Country Loaf.  

The Dutch oven/combo cooker traps the steam from the dough and makes an efficient steam environment that is difficult to replicate in the home oven. 

I have only made his loaf in it to date. They are superb and you can see he results on my blog here. 

jimtr6's picture
jimtr6

I looked at Ebay first, naturally shipping cast iron has a hefty cost, I ended up finding a decent new one on Harbor Freight, of course it's Chinese, but the reviews were good so I got one there, it's straight non enameled cast iron that I had to season, it is heavy and seems to seal good, a heavy lid has a nice advantage, but I saw a nice enameled one on Amazon in the oval shape that I may get

jimtr6's picture
jimtr6

wow, did you see that nice Lodge combo cooker on Amazon, what a killer though, free shipping on orders over $35, the cooker cost $34.99!

BobBoule's picture
BobBoule

are a mixed bag. The unenameled Lodge have good reviews (it seems that they are made in the USA) however during my shopping research I found that the enameled Lodge (and other enameled low cost brands) had too many low rated reviews for me to trust them and they allegedly are made in China. I had bad experience trying to learn to season cast iron properly so I decided to go with the enameled dutch oven just to make life easier for a beginner (me).

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

There is really nothing you need to do to start baking your bread in the combo cooker.  A little bit of oil after the pans are cooled off, rubbed on with a paper towel and you are good to go for the next time you use them.

I basically went to cast iron, bought my dutch oven and learned to bake bread all at the same time. Worked out very well for me.

I would  not pay extra for enamel. But if washing your pans in a dishwasher is important, then enamel is the only way to go.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

You can get free shipping on that. It becomes a great deal and these pans are great for cooking up home fries and omelets as well (at least the shallow one).

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

You can sign up for a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime  <--LINK which offers free 2 day shipping on thousands of items as well as allows you to stream tons of movies and television programs.

 

jimtr6's picture
jimtr6

well that happens now and then, you make a purchase then after the fact the better deal comes along...lol

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

You May be able to cancel and then reorder thru prime. 

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I use my pretty cheap turkey roasters and they do a nice job.  I place it on top of preheated unglazed quarry tiles.  I do spray a bit of water inside just before loading into the oven, but I am sure the hydration in the bread evaporating during the bake is more than enough steam.

Good luck.

John

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I would definitely have used mine has I known I owned one. Being a vegetarian these past 20 years, I haven't had much use for a turkey roaster.  When I realized I had one, I thought I was an idiot for buying a dutch oven.  I did use it once to cover a loaf pan on a griddle.  Can't say I found it easy to use. The pans are quite a bit smaller, don't come quite as close to the broiler and, of course, are much less cumbersome overall, especially since they are easier to store and can sit on the stovetop and be used for cooking.  

That said, you can't make a baguette with them. But for round loaves, the combo cooker is just excellent.  I believe a roaster is better than nothing but is still probably too big an environment without adding additional water. 

jimtr6's picture
jimtr6

I didn't order, I bought a Chinese dutch oven from Harbor Freight and have used it, the Lodge is the same money and a better product, and two pieces in one, that's okay, the one I got is all I need, my problem isn't a lack of equipment, it's a lack of experience and knowledge

jimtr6's picture
jimtr6

this prompts me to ask about preferred oven temps, I did read a small bit about "oven spring" and another thing where the oven is put at around 500 degrees at first then backed down to more like 400 or so, I'm guessing that a dutch oven will require or allow more heat, and the bread is shielded from being burnt because of a direct overhead burner. My hometown of Meriden CT still has a pizza place (Little Rendezvous) and has the original coal fired pizza oven now over 125 years old, they start the fire in the firebox (there is no fire in the baking part of the stove) on Tuesday noon and it goes out Sunday night, they're closed on Monday, the temp is 800 to 1000 degrees, the pizza sizzles when it comes out, the experience of having a slice of this pizza is beyond words, I think the high temp plays a very large part in this wonderful pizza.

BobBoule's picture
BobBoule

is my preferred temperature. I occasionally find an particular experiment that early burns on the bottom so I drop it to 475. Some folks start at 500 then drop to 475 or 450 once the dough is in the oven, I might try that in the future.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Woke up this morning and took out the cast iron pan, put it on medium heat, added a dab of coconut oil to coat the bottom, then added to the hot griddle enough chopped onions to cover the bottom, and let them cook a bit.  Took a kale leaf, stripped the leaves, chopped it up fine and threw on top of the onions to stir things up a bit.

Meanwhile, my Tartine loaf was sliced for toast....  I broke 4 eggs into a bowl, scrambled them up, added a dab of coconut oil to the pan and poured the eggs into the hot griddle on top of the onions and kale.  Lifted the griddle up a bit to evenly distribute the egg and let it cook while the toast was made.

Once the eggs set, I took my wooden spatula and ran it around the edges of the omelet, which released fairly easily. I found a good spot to slip it under and folded it in half. Nicely browned on the bottom and let it cook for a minute before turning the fire off, buttering the toast and splitting the yummy omelet and toast with my wife.

No pictures, but a great omelet.

Yeasty_Beasty's picture
Yeasty_Beasty

I am quite new to bread baking and started with the infamous "No-Knead" bread recipe that uses a dutch oven.  With the help of The Fresh Loaf and other sites I have made some nice (and many not so nice) yeast and naturally leavened breads with the method.  I'd simply plop the loaf into the heated dutch oven, cover for 20 minutes or so and uncover for remaining time.   I always had issues with plopping my loaf into the oven though.  Not always the easiest task.   However, one tip I picked up somewhere on the internet (sorry, I forget where) was to use a pizza stone and invert the dutch oven on top.   That way, I could just slide my bread onto the heated stone, add some water/steam and then put the bottom of the dutch oven on top of the loaf (inverted of course!).    This method worked out MUCH BETTER for me and I've been using it since.