The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dutch ovens, size, material??

Lasttango's picture

Dutch ovens, size, material??

I am looking at trying to bake some no knead bread using a dutch oven type of vessel.  I know people use all types of materials and sizes.  I was thinking of trying to use one of my Piral (glazed, terra cotta) large sauce pans (2.5 quart).  Has anyone ever used Piral for this...I don't see why it wouldn't work.  And if you have used Piral that way, what temperature did you use?  I know Piral can be used in the oven.  I am looking at possibly getting an enameled cast iron DO, maybe around 4 or 4.5 quart size.  I don't make huge loaves, and I would like the loves to be a little taller; that's why I'm thinking about a smaller size vs a 6-7 quart size. I might just get a larger Piral casserole dish, if it will work.  I love the look of the Piral.  I am also looking at the Lodge enameled cast iron DO.

flournwater's picture

I'm not a fan of coated dutch ovens, I prefer raw cast iron cookware for frying pans and dutch ovens.  If you're typical bread loaf is small you may find the Lodge 2 quart or 3 quart ( handy.  Mine is a five quart and handles a two pound loaf very nicely.

Dcn Marty's picture
Dcn Marty

Just purchased a dutch oven for my daughter, which gave an opportunity to see what I want. I like Lodge cast iron, but noticed their enameled cookwear is from China. This may or may not be a concern for you. My daughter chose to go with the standard cast iron from Tennessee, rather than China's offering. As far as size, she chose 5 qt, while I was thinking 3 qt. Comparing them side by side will help you decide which is best for you. I decided to go with the 5 qt, as I thought it would be more versatile. I can always make a smaller loaf in it, should I choose.

mrfrost's picture

I will say that King Arthur Flour advises against using the original NYT no knead method(cold dough into preheated pot) when using the Emil Henry glazed clay pots. And there is at least one review there of Emil Henry pot breaking there, iirc. Cold dough and cold pot into cold or preheated oven is okay though.

I don't know if the Piral's are as expensive as the Emil Henry, but that may be worth knowing.

jlewis30's picture

Goodness, if cold dough in a hot enameled pot was enough of a temp differential to crack the glaze I would send that thing back to the farm...

That said, I check the goodwill stores for cast iron and get some treasures. Though my main bread baking dutch oven is the one I have had since the dawn of time that I use for campfire cooking. It is unwieldy as all hell, but it gets the job done with SWAGGER. Ugly as sin as well =/

butterflygrooves's picture

:::butting in:::

I was looking for DO and cloche info today when this question popped up, maybe I can get an answer here...  How in the world do you use these things?  Take the lid off and turn the bottom part upside down over the dough and baking stone?  Links, pics, and vids would all be helpful, my searches haven't yielded much.

mrfrost's picture

Original method demonstrated by "creator":

Breadtopia demonstrates the parchment paper sling method(part 2 video). Little different formula, but loading into pot/cloche would be the same:

Of course there are other methods. If you have a large enough stone, and suitable covers(metal bowls, pots, etc), you just load the loaf onto the stone and cover.


AW's picture

I don't know about Piral but I can tell you about enameled cast iron.

I have a LeCreuset 2.5 quart. It is a wonderful vessel and has lived up to its reputation as a quality pot. That said, in retrospect I wish I had purchased a Lodge dutch oven. With the LeCreuset I am always afraid I'm going to chip the enamel. I am a very careful cook and baker, but I don't like worrying about damage. I have two Lodge cast iron skillets and will start replacing all my old skillets when their lives are complete. My mother and grandmother swore by these skillets, and now (years and years later) I understand why. As a medical writer, I have a greater respect for the age-old thinking that synthetic coatings on pots and pans are highly undesirable.

For what it's worth to you, I tried my first loaf in a Pyrex casserole.

Honestly, I only made the no-knead loaves three times and wished I had not spent that much money on a dutch oven. I switched over to regular kneading and appreciated having much greater control over the entire process. Plus the no-knead loaves never seemed quite as good as the regular loaves (both free-standing and in pans); the crumb always seemed a little more wet than it should be.

My best advice to you is to borrow a friend's pots before purchasing any of these if you can. But whatever you do have fun. It's good to plan but experimentation is part of that fun.

Note: Many people get rid of Lodge cookware, so if you are a garage sale, flea market person, you might even find these on the cheap, rusted and looking crappy. You'll have to scrub off the rust with steel wool and then reseason the pot.



Lasttango's picture

I am leaning more and more towards getting plain cast iron if I do get a DO. I was just wounding about the Piral, since I already own some pieces, and will probably add more in the future. Piral is not cheap. I was also looking at the sassafras cloche, but have read where many people have had the bases break.

I am new to bread baking, and so far the whole wheat recipe from HBin5 has not worked well for me. I am going to try the master recipe and see if that does any better. I am also going to try the KA no-knead method. I have tried baking in my small Romertopf, but want to try other methods to see which works best for me. Eventually, I want to learn to make bread the "old fashioned" way (kneading).

Lasttango's picture

I did a little experiment this morning. I used a USA Pan 9 x 4 x 4 pan with a lid to make a loaf of KA 100% WW no-knead bread. I also made a batch of the HBin5 master recipe( which is only partial whole wheat). I liked the KA recipe; it has only one rise session, and tasted good. The only problem I had is it fell in a bit at the top. Using this pan, it was much more sandwich size. I tried the other recipe in a 2.5L corning ware dish with a lid, preheated. I used some of the HBin5 dough without refrigerating it first (it had two room temp rises instead). I did get more rise out of, but it still didn't get poofy like some of the breads they show. I think I will just stick with The KA WW bread recipe in the Pulman pan for sandwich/toast bread. I don't think you can make artisan breads using whole grains....they just dont rise much. I did make one batch of the HBin5 master recipe...I'm going to let it sit in the fridge overnight and try an artisan loaf one more time. I don't expect the results will be much different though.

Janknitz's picture

Covering the dough on a stone with ANYTHING will work.  Try an inexpensive deep aluminum foil pan from the dollar store--works great.  A metal bowl, an unglazed flower pot (plug the hole!), an enamel turkey roaster (purchased from Goodwill for $2.99!) any oven-proof pot from your kitchen, they all work fine!  I hate to see people go out and spend hundreds of dollars on enamel combo cookers, fancy clay vessels, or Le Cruset dutch ovens.  It's all SO unnecessary!!!!!!!!!!!  If you already have the Piral it should work just fine, but I wouldn't go out and spend a lot of money on one specifically for bread baking. 

That said I do have a clay baker that cost about $25 for very wet doughs that need help holding their shape.  I got it from "Home and Hearth Decor" --their website does not seem to be set up for web orders anymore :o( but they still sell them for the same price on eBay (free shipping!).    Much cheaper than La Cloche but works just fine and arrives intact--I've purchased two from them after my first one "took a long walk off a short pier." 

Clay bakers do not need to be pre-soaked.  If the hydration level of the dough is low, I'll spray the dough with water before baking, but it's rarely needed.  Per Rose Levy-Beranbaum's suggestions, I preheat the lid, but do the final proofing of the shaped loaf (usually a boule, since the clay baker is round) in the base on the counter at room temperature.  No slinging wet dough into a screaming hot base!  Then into the oven and cover with the preheated lid.  Perfectly wonderful results each and every time!

If you use your Piral, either simply preheat the lid in the oven but do the final proof in the base on the counter, or, if you are going to cover the dough with an overturned Prial, preheat that in the oven with the stone.  Don't spray water near your hot Piral if you decide to spray your dough--that might lead to cracking.  Spray the loaf before you put it in the oven!  It should work great. 



Lasttango's picture

As I mentioned earlier, I made up another batch of the master recipe from HBin5, and was planning on baking it tomorrow. I've been sitting here watching videos on making bread on the KA website, and I just decided to go for it. I got the dough out (had been in the fridge or two or three hours), and started folding it. It was very sticky, so I had to add flour to the counter and my hands, and the dough itself, but I just kept on until I got a pretty decent loaf formed. It didn't take long. I let it sit for about an hour, preheating the oven during that time, and preheating my Romertopf at 500 degrees. I then put the dough (on its parchment sling) into the Romertopf and put on the cover. Put it back in the oven at 450 degrees for the next 20 minutes. When I took off the lid, I had a great rise and beautiful brown color. This is the only tine I've gotten any oven spring using this method. I forgot to cut the top, but it looks so promising. I know this is a no knead method, but I think the kneading helped. I will have to investigate this further.

Janknitz's picture

with HBin5 breads is that you can get consistent oven spring if:

1.  You get a good "gluten cloak" on the final shaping before that last counter rise.  This DOES require more flour than they SAY (but if you look at the videos of them actually handling the dough, they do use quite a bit more than the printed materials suggest), but does NOT require kneading.  I usually shape the final loaf by doing one--maybe two--stretch and folds as I'm shaping, but that's it. 

2.  If the dough is really ready to be baked (finger poke test).

3.  Using the "cloche method" with whatever "lid" you have on hand. 

Lasttango's picture

Artisan bread attempt # 7

Lasttango's picture

after cooling and cutting

Here it is after cooling. It still is pretty dense, but it's primarily whole wheat. Not sure I can do much better than that.

holds99's picture

I bake large loaves (2 kilo (4.4 lbs.) using a dutch oven.  These are enameled but I've also used a Lodge plain cast iron with excellent results.  I proof my loaves in a parchment lined stainless steel bowl, leaving enough overlapping parchment to easily lift the loaves out of the proofing bowl and into the preheated (500 deg. F) Dutch oven.  During the baking cycle keep the lids on the Dutch ovens for approximately 3/4 of the total baking time, then remove the lids to brown the tops.  Also, reduce heat to 475 deg. F after 10 minutes, then to 450 deg F midway through the baking cycle.  Trim the excess overlapping parcment after placing the loaves into the preheated Dutch oven so as to avoid having the overlapping parchment (that would hang over the edge and outside of the Dutch oven during baking) scorch in the hot oven. 

I have also used 2 terracotta oval Dutch type ovens, but baked the loaves without parchment.  I didn't preheat them, just put the dough into the terracotta baking vessels at room temperature and put them into the oven (500 deg. F).   The dough stuck, slightly, to the sides of the terracotta.  Next time I use them I will lightly spray the inside with oil before putting the dough into the terracotta baking vessel.

Here's some photos of the emameled Dutch oven results, using parchment.  These were levain loaves.  You will definitely get a higher rise using the Dutch oven than baking free-form in the oven.