The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cold dutch oven to proof bread, then bake?

Nickisafoodie's picture

Cold dutch oven to proof bread, then bake?

Question: has anyone tried using a dutch oven for the final proof rather than a lined and floured banneton  - and then baking in the dutch oven after proofing?

I am wondering if for the final rise I could shape the loaf, put it in a dutch oven, place same in refrigerator for overnight retard, and then simply place the vessle in a hot oven to bake (lid on for 20 minutes, then off for remainder)?  For reasons too complicated to get into, rather than my usual overnight proof in banneton and transfer to dutch oven for bake, was wondering if anyone ever tried this?  I have had good luck transferring dough to a cold dutch oven and then placing in hot oven - so it seems not neccessary to preheat dutch ovens ahead of time given the heat transfer is so quick with cast iron, so the question seems plausible in my mind.  It would also allow me to make a larger loaf in the same vessle by filling the dutch oven 2/3 with dough, and allowing the rise to bring it almost to the top - something hard to do with a large loaf if using a banneton and flipping into a dutch oven.

Thanks for any feedback, sorry if this is posted in the wrong place...

Happy Thankgiving!

ehanner's picture


Good question. I have proofed many times in my combo-cooker at room temperature with no problem. Adding the cold component of retarding will slow down the warming of the center of the dough. If I were going to speculate, I'd say to leave the cover on for a few minutes longer than you would otherwise and lower the heat when you take it off by 10-20 degrees. And, I would check the internal temperature the first time to be sure it isn't gummy. All of this done on parchment paper. Another thought, I usually don't use a stone with a DO bake but it might help (pre heated) in this case. The heat would transfer from the stone helping to get it warmed faster.

Let us know if you try it.


richkaimd's picture

I believe that the value of cooking in a Dutch is that it traps the steam coming out of a baking loaf, allowing that steam to interact with the outer surface of the dough to form a good crust.   My guess is that steam formation would take more time starting from a cold Dutch oven than from one that's been sitting in a heated oven for a while.   I don't believe you can count on the 20-30 minutes of crust formation recommended in many Dutch oven recipes (e.g., no-knead bread.)  I bet you'll get bread but that it'll take you several tries to figure out your timing to get a good appearance/crust/crumb combination.  I also think that you'll have to be careful not to try to bake so much dough that it pushes the oven's cover up/off.  I'm interested in knowing what your bread looks like when it reaches "done", i.e., 195-205 degrees.

I look forward to hearing what your experiments show.


Nickisafoodie's picture

I'm thinking the bottom half of a combi cooker with 5 lbs of dough.  I will use a stone on the lower third or more like 25% of the oven placing dutch oven in the center.  I like the idea of parchment lining too although any speculation on if I just place dough directly into the dutch oven?

My plan was to heat to 500°, steam, place dutch oven on stone, lower to 430° and cover with a large pot (rather than risk hitting the top of the combi cooker) and leave for 15 minutes then remove.  I do have a probe themometer and would bake to 203°.  Dough is 68% hydration using 85% King Arthur special, 5% rye and 10% whole wheat...

Thanks again for you thoughtful insights...

flournwater's picture

There has been some discussion on these forums about starting a loaf in a cold dutch oven vs one that has been preheated.  I'm not a fan of the cold dutch oven method but your idea of proofing in the dutch oven before using the cold method should work out just fine; provided that's what like.

dmsnyder is well respected for his input on this matter (and other issues).  Take a look at what he has written about it.

Nickisafoodie's picture

Thank you flournwater,

His post was very interesting and very helpful, thanks for pointing me to it, I missed it...  I am trying to bake one larger loaf vs. two smaller for Thanksgiving, normally I do the transfer to hot too - but now I am intrigued given David explained his method so clearly.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I find I can blast the cold covered Dutch Oven with the fan and high heat reaching high temps quickly without drying out the loaf.  Easy to take advantage of the fan that way.  The oven heats fast with the fan (15 to 20 min) when pan is placed into a cold oven.  I don't use a stone.  No need to steam the oven because the pans trap steam inside.  Much better for the oven.  I just add the preheat time to the baking time leaving it covered longer.  When I uncover, I reduce the heat.  

My favorites are two small DOs, also two large flat bottomed black wok pans.  They fit rim to rim.

The use of the banneton is for free standing loaves, to help hold shape.   If the dough is risen (final proofed) in the DO, then the DO serves as a bread pan.   No need for a banneton.      Below: Two woks baking chamber, handles removed.   The smaller one I use for my rye loaves.


subfuscpersona's picture

Thanks for the photos of your baking set up. You've mentioned it before in prior posts but I could never quite visualize it.

QUESTION - What material are the woks made of (cast iron? cast aluminum? something else?)

I use a similar approach - a small capacity cast iron dutch oven with an upside-down cast iron skillet as the lid. ( Photo below is from my post Baking bread in cast iron - no preheat method )

 Looking forward to your response. Thanks in advance.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

are both the woks and the other pans.  I can see why you preheat, there's a stone in the oven.  I skip that part, me no stone.  For me the fan really does a nice job, better than my normal preheating setting with just upper and lower heat.   Iron would work the same.  I do cut the proofing time when using a cold oven, some proofing is going on while the oven & pans heat up.   Looks good to me!   Your bread too!  :)


subfuscpersona's picture

I preheat the oven (but not the dutch oven or lid) because my gas stove is really lousy. A cheap model purchased decades ago, very poorly insulated, heat source from bottom only, no fan. Wish I could replace it but that's not in my future (or my budget).

The stone helps regulate the heat. Without it, the gas cycles on and off a lot and the temperature really fluctuates. If the oven were better I probably wouldn't have to use the baking stone when baking in cast iron.

I suspect cast aluminum also heats more rapidly than cast iron, since aluminum is a better heat conductor than cast iron.

Thanks again for your swift reply. Much appreciated. - SF


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

An idea with the oven...  LINK

Good luck

Nickisafoodie's picture

It nice to get validation on something re new thinking  - then you find others on this site have not only done what you are asking about, but offer many insights that benefit your thinking while reducing trial and error...  Much appreciated.  A wok hunting I will go which would work better than my current pan/cover...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)  Mini

bill bush's picture
bill bush

I have used a crock pot insert with an aluminum lid that fits in it to do second rise and bake for no-knead.  The size of the insert (width/height ratio) was more like what I want in order to get big slices.  I also have a small cast iron sauce pan with lid that makes a small loaf that is at least as tall as it is wide.  That works for a no-knead loaf of 400 grams flour/300 grams water.  The crock pot insert I used was for a loaf made with 600 grams of flour, and I am currently in the first rise of a loaf with 800 grams of flour that will be both second-raised and cooked in a parchment-lined dutch oven.  I am looking for a rectangular covered dish to bake in.  Haven't found one at the yard sales yet, but there is still time!   

holds99's picture

FWIW.  I frequently use a Dutch oven to bake bread.  I've done both cold oven bakes and hot oven bakes (preheat Dutch to 500 deg. F before placing dough into Dutch oven).

The sequence I use is: 1. premix and autolyse, 2. final mix, 3. two to three stretch and folds, 4. place in plastic container, cover and retard overnight, 5. remove dough container from fridge and allow to come to room temp. (approx. 3 hrs.), 6. divide and shape, 7. final proof in parchment lined stainless mixing bowls-covered, 8. AFTER final proofing place the dough in Dutch oven to bake.

What I think you are asking is---can you take your Dutch oven, after retardation, directly from the fridge into the kithen oven and bake.  Maybe I missed something, but your dough will not be fully bulk fermented if you retard in your Dutch oven and go directly from fridge to baking.  I think you're going to need to go through a warm-up period after removing the Dutch oven (containing your dough) from the fridge in order to get your full final proof, before placing the dough into either a cold or preheated Dutch oven.  Otherwise your center, being cold, may not bake with the same degree of consistency as the outer portion of your dough mass, which may result in a gummy center because of uneven heat penetration into the cold dough.


subfuscpersona's picture

Did you ever try this? If yes, can you post your feedback?

"on Nov 22, 2011 you wrote:
I am wondering if for the final rise I could shape the loaf, put it in a dutch oven, place same in refrigerator for overnight retard, and then simply place the vessle in a hot oven to bake...rather than my usual overnight proof in banneton and transfer to dutch oven for bake, was wondering if anyone ever tried this?  I have had good luck transferring dough to a cold dutch oven and then placing in hot oven

Looking forward to your response. - SF

Nickisafoodie's picture

and although others had success, I didn't.  My crust stuck on the bottom and sides.  Had I used parchment paper to line bottom and sides, it would have worked well.  Given it seems difficult to line sides with parchment, I may stay with the more traditional banneton into hot dutch oven... 

I took the dough out of the refrigerator 40 minutes prior to bake while my oven heated up.  The inside cooked just fine so having a rather cold dough did not seem to matter...

Thanks all...

loydb's picture

I haven't done this with a dutch oven, but I've had some good success recently with using a pullman pan for the final proof and putting it into a cold oven. I've been doing some sweet breakfast sourdough breads that contain chocolate chips, and didn't want them melting into my baking stone. I will give my dutch oven a try next time!