The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

baking bread in a dutch oven vs other methods

varda's picture
varda

baking bread in a dutch oven vs other methods

I started baking bread recently mainly because my husband bought a dutch oven for another purpose, and I wanted to use it.   So I tried the basic Bittman no knead recipe and fell in love.   Since then I have made semolina bread, rye bread, sourdough bread, etc. etc.  using this method.   Then I found this site, and realized that perhaps there were breads I could make using other methods.   But I admit to some confusion.   People seem to go to great lengths to get effects that one can get easily using a dutch oven.   I am thinking in particular of stones and steam.   So my question is why not just cook in a pot even when you are not doing no knead?  At least one reason comes to mind which is shape - all my dutch oven breads are round, and sometimes I long for a longer loaf.   But are there others, or are people just used to their methods and not anxious to switch over to another simpler one?   Even though I don't know the answer to this question I tried cooking today with a stone  (a 1 ft square, 1 inch thick block of raw granite from home depot) and with a steam pan.   I made a whole wheat flax seed batard (hurray) and the crust came out great, etc. but it was a bit more of a production than just throwing it in a dutch oven.   Any thoughts on this?   Thanks!

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I tend to agree with you, for most of my bread baking needs, so when I make a loaf of bread a rustic boule from my dutch oven is the simplest method I can think of.  But I sometimes want to make baguettes from which I might prepare crostinis or I may want to prepare a meal with baguette slices, etc.  In those instances I lean toward the baguette method for dough preparation and shaping.  I also find that a ciabatta, for which I prepare a dough that is not as firm as something I might bake in my dutch oven, or a focaccia; then again there are times when a pizza dough is required for a special menu.  During the holidays I like to make Artos, sometimes a brioche for a special dinner or a cinammon nut loaf.  So, you see, there's lots of reasons to learn a wide range of methods for bread making.

varda's picture
varda

I guess that is the rub.   It's time for me to make baguettes and it can't be done in a dutch oven, so on to the next method.   I also love brioche, but have been avoiding learning how to make them for the very reason that if I do it could be hazardous to my weight.   I was really expecting the bread scientists to kick in with reasons, but yours are quite compelling by themselves.

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog

Dutch Ovens might be round but cast iron does come in other shapes.



http://oakflatsourdough.homeunix.com

rockfish42's picture
rockfish42

Capacity is my main concern, I can fit several 1 pound loaves at once into my oven. I do like the way bread comes out in the DO of course and like to use one when camping and the mood strikes me.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

baking is much more than feeding my wife and myself.


It's memories of my grandmother's warm, fragrent kitchen, sitting opposite her watching her tiny, blunt fingered hands knead dough while we talked of my school grades, and her childhood days in Wales.


It's memories of my children's smiles when I made doughnuts, and white bread, and cream puffs.


It's memories of ethnic bakeries, long gone from my childhood's community, and likely never present in my Florida retirement. Although I hasten to add, at least two artisanal bakeries are within a thirty-mile radius.


Let me also hasten to make clear, I applaud the creators of no-knead bread, and their influence on home bakers, and especially those it makes home baking possible considering exhausting work schedules.


But, I cling to the "old ways", probably because it helps me remember. Certainly, it keeps my hands in the dough longer; which I have the leisure to do, and love the sensuality of doing--my mixer has been resting since early January; I've been making breads entirely by hand, and loving it; but, then again, I haven't been making brioche or ciabatta;-)


And I baked bread (and biscuits, and muffins, and cakes, and once on a bet Baked Alaska) in dutchovens as a boy, and later a man, volunteering with the Boy Scouts.


And, if we all did things the same way, there wouldn't be horse races.


And, I've got an oval cast iron dutchoven I'm going to try one of these days. Maybe, I've been avoiding it because I'll be seduced by how easy it's touted to be, and give up all this other fun.


David G

flournwater's picture
flournwater

That's downright poetic.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

...but I've written, and published a few things. Glad you enjoyed it.


DG.

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

I tried the round loaf in a dutch oven and agree the results were good, but too much crumb and not enough crust for me, especially with a lean dough.  I like a little crust in every bite, and I like the crust to ring the smaller slices of bread like you get with a baguette. 


Although I have an oval dutch oven that might hold a mini-baguette, it's just not an efficient use of the oven.  I don't like to bake just one loaf at a time.

saraugie's picture
saraugie

" I tried the basic Bittman no knead recipe and fell in love.   Since then I have made semolina bread, rye bread, sourdough bread, etc. etc.  using this method."


Vhaimo, I am wondering how you made the other variations. I have the basic recipe, did you just substitute the different type flour for AP or Bread ? How did you incorporate the starter for your sourdough?

varda's picture
varda

For the semolina I substituted a cup of semolina flour for one of the white.  Also put a cornstarch glaze on top and sesame seeds.   For sourdough, instead of yeast, I put a cup of fairly wet whole wheat sourdough starter (not soup but close) into the mix the night before, and reduced the water to 1.25 cups.   This came out quite nicely.   The rye I was quite unsatisfied with and came back to the list for better advice, so I won't pass that one on.   The simplest substitution was to use a cup of King Arthur White Wheat instead of one of the cups of white flour.   This was really delicious.    But I have also adapted other recipes.   The flax seed bread I made yesterday with more traditional methods, I first made as a no-knead recipe.   I used 2 cups whole wheat, 1 cup bread flour, 1/4 tsp yeast, 1 1/4 tsp salt, 1 T sugar and 1/2 cup flax seeds.   Mixed it up the night before, and then used the rest of the no knead instructions for the preparation.  It came out just great.   But that was a few weeks ago and then I made the same recipe with adaptations (more yeast) with a preferment, a stone, steam pan, etc. yesterday to try out various methods I read about on this site and elsewhere.   It was also very good - I'm thinking it is hard to go wrong with flax seeds since they have such a wonderful flavor.   Since I didn't make the two loaves side by side, I really don't know which one was better.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

The original Sullivan Bakery/Bittman/New York Times bread recipe was pretty high hydration (around 80%). It also made a large loaf (at least 1 & 1/2 pounds) and the write-up recommended a large dutch oven (at least 4 quart capacity up to 6 cup capactiy).


I'd like to try using a smaller (2 quart) dutch oven for some of the 30% whole grain sourdough loaves I make on a weekly basis. The hydration for these doughs is about 70%.


So here are my questions...


Do you always preheat your dutch oven (and lid) regardless of the bread recipe you're using?


Do you make any adjustments in temperature / baking time (both with lid on and lid off) for different breads?


Any adjustments in baking time for a smaller amount of dough? (I am guessing my 2 quart capacity dutch oven would hold about 1 pound of dough.)


Thanks in advance - SF

varda's picture
varda

I haven't tried cooking a substantially smaller loaf, so don't know about that.   But in all the variations that I have made, I've basically followed the Bittman instructions - that is preheat DO for 1/2 hour with oven at 450.   Cook for 30 minutes covered, and the time uncovered seems to be more dependent on the type of bread.   This is probably a naive way to approach it, but it seems to work pretty well at least for the bread I've tried.   I am guessing that the higher hydration matters since you are using the moisture from the dough itself to create the steamy environment within the pot.   But it seems worth experimenting with.    Perhaps by adding more water to the dough if the drier approach doesn't come out just right.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

...baking a 70% hydration sourdough loaf in a 2 quart capacity dutch oven.


My first attempt is promising. I got good oven spring (about 1 & 1/2") and a "singing" loaf when it came out of the oven. However, the bottom got a bit burnt, so I have to work on the timing and the oven heat.


I'm using an upside down cast iron skillet as the "lid". My 2 quart dutch oven is 8" diameter, as is the cast iron skillet. I can place the skillet comfortably on top and get a good seal. It gives me a height of almost 5" to work with.


While the basic no-knead recipe is my guideline, I've already learned that I don't need a dough at 80% hydration and I don't need to preheat the pot and lid at 450 to 500 F for 30 min.


I also learned that 19 ounces of dough is too much for a 2-quart cast iron dutch oven. The loaf rose to the top of the "lid" and I got a little scorching on top. Next time I bake, I'll use the same recipe but only about 17 ounces of dough, so the loaf has room to expand.

varda's picture
varda

I'm not an engineer but... Doesn't preheating the cast iron bring the whole pot to an even temperature distribution, which then cooks the bread very evenly, duplicating the function of a stone?   Are you saying that 30 minutes is too long for that?   I assumed you needed the half hour period because there is a lot of mass to heat up in a big iron pot.   People heat their bread stones for over an hour as I understand it, for exactly the same reason.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

vhaimo on March 3, 2010 wrote wrote:
Doesn't preheating the cast iron bring the whole pot to an even temperature distribution, which then cooks the bread very evenly, duplicating the function of a stone? Are you saying that 30 minutes is too long for that? I assumed you needed the half hour period because there is a lot of mass to heat up in a big iron pot.

Yes, I am saying that, for a 2 quart capacity cast iron dutch oven,  30 minutes preheat (at 450 to 500 F) is unnecessary. I preheated my 2 quart dutch oven for about 15 - 20 minutes in a 350 F oven. For baking, once the dough was in the pot, I increased the oven heat to 450F.


My impression is that people who bake bread in a covered cast iron pot  basically follow the instructions given in the original New York Times article on no-knead bread. The original recipe makes a large loaf - it uses a high hydration dough and a large (at least 5 quart capacity) cast iron pot for baking. It recommends both preheating and baking at high heat.


I am experimenting with modifying the baking technique for a different result - I want a smaller loaf and I am starting with a lower hydration dough. Besides using a smaller capacity cast iron pot, I am going to have to experiment with preheating time and temperature and baking time and temperature.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

that the great lengths people go to in order to generate steam in a home oven are mostly unnecessary and not all that safe (steam burns, cracked oven windows, cracked stones).


The dutch oven is needed for the bread formula you were using for two reasons:


1)  The highly hydrated dough couldn't really hold it's own shape, so the dutch oven contains the dough. 


2)  covering the dough gives the steam effect without all the other machinations to produce steam.


The dutch oven works for many breads when you want to acheive that kind of crust--provided you are OK with the shape and capacity of the dutch oven to bake a particular bread.  But there's an equally simple way for other breads that do not require the dutch oven just to hold their shape.  You can use a stone and COVER the dough for part of the baking with something as simple and cheap as a big foil roasting pan.  Nowadays, I use the bottom of a big enamel turkey roaster (purchased for a few dollars at a thrift store), just because the cheap foil pan eventually gets bent out of shape and is difficult to store. 


The results are equal to using the dutch oven, and the right sized cover will accomodate any shape of loaf (well--I'm still looking for one large enough to cover my baguette pan).  Plus, there's no danger of steam burns or cracked oven windows from this method. 

saraugie's picture
saraugie

By using your turkey roaster bottom covering your dough thats on top of a baking stone, you do not put a cup of water into, say a cast iron pot, that has been heating up to correct baking temp inside the oven ? The dough generates all the steam necessary, correct ?

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I lost track of this thread.


But no, no additional water is needed--all the steam comes from the dough itself.


I get beautiful and consistent results every time.


It's so easy, it ought to be illegal ;o)

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

...for my freeform loaves for about 2 years now.


However, I find the results, though good, to be uneven. I almost always get a decent oven spring but I don't necessarily get the crisp outer crust that I'm attempting. Bread doesn't always "sing" (or, at least, sing loud and long) when removed.


Re shape, I prefer a batard over a boule, but I'm starting to experiment (again!) with cooking in a cast iron dutch oven. There's something about baking in a cast iron dutch oven that reliably produces crisp-crust, open crumb artisan bread. Maybe I'll start to love boules.

spacey's picture
spacey

I've been playing with steam in a pan underneath a pizza stone, but I'm really tempted to get an oblong le creuset dutch oven and making batards in there.  I just don't find myself satisfied with the sourdough rounds and batards that I'm getting using pizza stone.  Specifically I find that after the initial oven spring, the bottom starts balooning out sometimes.  This is not a problem I had with rounds in my old dutch oven.

Doughtagnan's picture
Doughtagnan

for a longer baguette type shape..........   cheers Steve

spacey's picture
spacey

So I don't have a fish kettle.  I was wondering, though...


I've been making stretched loaves from Lahey's book, by using the top and bottom of a rectangular cloche (the ones that are sold on breadtopia.com). 


It comes out OK, but I don't like the stretching and I'm learning how to form better to make baguettes with a prettier shape.


However, I was wondering if there's a source for small rectangular terra-cotta planters without holes that could be used instead of the cloche.  That'd allow for a longer and wider loaf, which would be very nice on a pizza stone.  Lahey mentions that he makes his with custom-made covers, which I'm also considering (a friend is an art teacher in the schools, so I'm thinking of seeing if we could make something unglazed with a handle when the school year has started) but if there's something pre-made, that'd be even better.

kfseefeldt's picture
kfseefeldt

I've been using a dutch oven and/or a cast iron chicken fryer for my breads. I use it for no knead as well as traditional sourdough. I've been successful with chocolate, chocolate-cherry, and cinnamon-raisin breads in there, too. I can bake two loaves using both the DO and the cast iron pan with lid. I preheat to 500F, drop the oven to 425F when I put the dough in, bake covered for 30 min, then 15-20 min uncovered until the bread is 205-210F internal temperature. One tip I can offer is to use corn meal on the bottom of your dough. It seems to really help with keeping the bottom from burning. I have found parchment to cause the bottom to burn, no matter how careful I am.


I have also successfully baked in loaf pans with a tin foil tent over the top. It was a pain to get it to be round in shape to allow the top of the bread to spring over the top and outward, but produced a wonderful, crisp crust.


I do agree with other folks, that knowing different techniques is important. I will continue to work on those methods, but currently find the DO method almost fool proof.


  Kurt

ronyon's picture
ronyon

I have been using a pyrex loaf pan withen the Dutch Oven.I turned to this to get a better rise with the whole wheat flours and have stuck to it due to the loaf shape and it seems to burn on the bottem less.A bit of  Gluten flower fixed the rise, and seems to also make the bread keep better(?).


This dough is very forgiving, I keep for way longer than Im supposed to,make waffles(quick way to make bread for sopping/dipping in beans, etc), and flat bread.


 I have stuggled with the pizza dough version-its always too light and fluffy! But as I said, I always leave it too rise too long...


 

Larry Clark's picture
Larry Clark

for getting a proofed loaf into a preheated DO without deflating the loaf?

Doughtagnan's picture
Doughtagnan

to turn out the proofed loaf onto non-stick baking parchment then gently lift into the DO of choice. I used a large cast iron casserole and bake from cold (avoids burnt fingers and saves fuel) Also the parchment aids removal of the loaf from said DO.


Cheers, Steve

varda's picture
varda

Steve, I thought the cast iron worked as a retained heat source (just like a stone) and would only be useful in that regard - to maintain even heat around the baking bread - if it were preheated.  And also like a stone, would need to be preheated to get the benefits of direct heat to the base of the bread for a nice crust.  Please elaborate...  Thanks,   Varda

Doughtagnan's picture
Doughtagnan

No worries Varda, it actually works fine both ways, ie either from cold or pre-heated. Crust is fine and I just remove the lid for the last 5 mins or so to brown the loaf. For a 800g loaf I usually bake for 45 mins (max oven temp from cold) then an extra 5 to brown. The beauty of covered baking is that the steam is generated within the DO and iv'e never had a burnt loaf. 


Cheers, Steve 

varda's picture
varda

Because I thought you had to preheat, and since I didn't want to get burned, and because in avoiding getting burned I would drop the loaf into the pan, and then it would deflate, and I got sick of that, I stopped using a DO.   So I will try your approach and see how it goes.   Thanks.  -Varda

amauer's picture
amauer

Please do not use pyrex for high heat baking, especially within another vessel. They are quite notorious for shattering if they have imperfections in the glass that cannot be seen by the naked eye, and heat distibutaion issues. I once baked some fish in a pyrex pan and when I took it out of the oven and set it in the sink it exploded . Luckily, the sink contained most of the glass. After that I read up on it. Even Cooks Illustrated has warned about the dangers of this, especially for sudden changes in temperature. They had a one explode in the Test Kitchen while taking an item out of the oven.


Andrea

rockfish42's picture
rockfish42

The big concern is thermal shock as you mentioned, but it's only a problem if you're exposing a hot pyrex to a cold surface. Older pyrex was made from borosilicate glass which is much more resistant to this problem. New pyrex which is not made by Corning is made from tempered soda lime glass. This new material is not nearly as durable, a visual check is to see if your pyrex has a green tint indicating that it is soda-lime glass. I still agree with your recommendation to not use pyrex old or new for this sort of baking.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

this advice has been posted before on TFL, but thanks for bringing it to the attention of readers yet again. "Pyrex" is simply a brand name, and says nothing about the quality of what is being purchased or the material from which the Pyrex cooking container is made.


Re the "green tint indicating that it is (inferior quality) soda-lime glass", look for the tint to appear on the upper edge of your Pyrex cassarole / bread pan. Hold it up to natural light and tilt it a little. The green tint is easily seen.


I own Pyrex baking and bread pans made with both borosilicate glass (earlier and safer) and soda lime glass (later, less safe). It is easy to do this visual check and it is very reliable.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Here's some previously posted information, including a pointer to a rather scary media story:


Quote:
Please be careful, people, there's more Pyrex exploding out there than you might think -- http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2006/03/pyrex_panic.html

Scary items include: i) sometimes a flaw that's too small to see is enough to cause the glass to shatter, ii) even "high quality" products occasionally have problems, and iii) sometimes everything works fine for a long long time (ex: 20 years), but then "tinkle tinkle".


It seems (I don't know for sure) that "Pyrex" is a brand name (currently owned by the "World Kitchen" corporation) that can be sub-licensed. And it seems (again I don't know for sure) it's no longer true all "Pyrex" is of exactly the same quality.


Question yourself: is this something that really requires use of Pyrex, that can't be done some other way? Glass is glass; why take the risk of using it around a 500F oven?

rolls's picture
rolls

hi, I use this method a lot, especially as I've been making more jim lahey bread. I currently have a batch of dough for cheese bread which I'm about to shape now, I usually use an oval glass baking dish with lid. now you have me concerned though.


also, I always wondered about baking in a pot from a cold oven, I also was under the impression that preheating was important. would like to try and see the diff, maybe with today's bread.


thanks for this thread, very helpful, I love bread and working with dough altogether, but have to admit, have mainly been making no knead bread. Although, richard bertinet's method, I also love and use for other doughs that are not no-knead.


I just wanted to ask, with jim lahey's dough, am i supposed to shape it into a batard rather than a boule shape, if using other than a round pot?


thanks heaps :)

amauer's picture
amauer

My exploding pyrex was an older one my mother had, probably the internal flaw issue. I also had one break when I set it on a picnic table outside in the dead of winter to cool some brownies. Ok. that one was my fault!  I don't think high heat is a good idea. Many have exploded in ovens or on taking them out. If you have ceramic or bisque, you are perfectly fine. Andrea

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

I occassionally use the dutch oven method and like the suppport it gives the wet dough, the steaming produced and the thermal mass of the pot; however, I have experimented with methods that offer some of the above advantages. 


As mentioned above, I often put dough in loaf pans (up to two) inside a large enameled roaster to get the steaming which I like.  This works well but is cumbersome and risky (easy to get burned). 


I also purchased some wire baskets today to bake wet dough with the kind of support a banneton gives during proofing.  I'll likely line the baskets with parchment paper to avoid contact between the dough and the coated wire.  The patterns from the basket will likely still show on the loaves.


I have even rolled aluminum foil into ropes and placed around the sides in the bottom of my dutch oven to produce oval loaves in a round dutch oven.


FF

kutzeh's picture
kutzeh

I put the bread in a cold DO when it is not risen quite double and it finishes while the DO is getting hot.It saves on fuel and bakes well in a hot or cold dutch oven