The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

WFO vs Dutch Oven Baking?

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BigelowBaker's picture
BigelowBaker

WFO vs Dutch Oven Baking?

I've been considering jumping in and building a WFO for a long time, however, logistically, it would be very difficult where I live. Over the past few months, though, I've really gotten into baking in Dutch ovens, and the results have been amazing.

So, I'm curious if there's anyone out there who's baked in both dutch ovens and WFO's and can speak to the differences/similarities in the quality of the loaves. I know WFO's are hands down better in terms of ability to bake in quantity and for things like pizzas, but for regular loaves, is there much of a difference from loaves baked in Dutch Ovens?

Here's a pic of some of my dutch oven results for comparison sake :)

SCChris's picture
SCChris

You’re correct with regard to volumes of bread and if you are looking to increase the volume of bread that you bake, then a WFO is a viable option.  Considering the volume of bread in the picture, you need something more than a home oven.

With regard to the quality of the breads baked, combo cooker vs wfo, this is going to depend on steam and this relates to both your WFO as built and how and if you add steam to the bake.  I have a 43” Pompeii style oven and have baked 18lbs of breads at a go, misted using a garden sprayer.  I get a reasonably good crust with this method but not quite as good as using the cast iron combo cooker.  The combo cooker has less excess space around the loaf, loaves than my oven, and so the steam is held closer and holds a higher humidity and this allow the crust to develop deeper into the loaf than my WFO.  I believe that there are a few design changes that would make a difference.  First an Alan Scott style oven with minimal interior height will maximize the humidity around the loaves during those critical 20 first minutes of crest formation.  A Pompeii style can be made with a low interior height to achieve the same results but my opinion is that a AS oven is more efficient with regard to loading than is a Pompeii. 

Second an active method of steaming, real hot steam would really help and Faith in Virginia put together a steamer that is very intriguing.  Until I put together a similar device, I’ll continue to mist the interior. 

I’d like to recommend the following reading: 

From the Wood-Fired Oven: New and Traditional Techniques for Cooking and Baking with Fire

By Richard Miscovich

 

Additionally check fornobravo.com forums for helpful wfo info.

 

Chris

BigelowBaker's picture
BigelowBaker

I've managed to get quite a lot out of my home oven -- although slinging 6 dutch ovens around for a few hours can be quite a bit of work :)

Looks like a great book -- thanks for the recommendation!

Twisted Brick's picture
Twisted Brick

 After a year of baking bread I have migrated from the combo cooker to my brick oven.  The WFO simplifies the process of baking 8 1lb loaves of Chad Robertson's Tartine Country white SD.  And like SCChris (who coincidentally gifted me a strain of his starter) says, I feel the combo cooker provides a slightly superior crust (WFO loaf on cutting board).

However, the above photo of BigelowBaker's beautiful loaves has me scratching my head. Presumably, all starters behave differently, but how does one maintain such consistency over the course of an extended (combo cooker) baking session?  Is the proofing window that long that this can be accomplished?  Or maybe the proofing times are staggered to accommodate a series of batches?

John 

SCChris's picture
SCChris

The problem that I run into relates to my use of fresh milled whole grain as a part of the flour and not doing a cold retard.  The fresh milled throws the SD into overdrive and although I can stagger the bakes to a degree, in warmer weather, a single bulk ferment and the final shape using the differences in household temps, often makes the second bake just a bit over proofed.  I really need to work with a retarded proof and see where this takes things..

Chris

 

PS I need a dedicated second fridge!

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

The optimum window or a sourdough is very long. Sure, there may be a theoretical "best" time which one can call optimum, but the range of time within which excellent bread may be baked is a lengthy one.  I've baked in the morning, afternoon and evening, all from the same batch of dough in the fridge, and had good results.

As for the original question, of course, if you have all of that cast iron already you can still use it in a WFO allowing you to bake more at once....

Twisted Brick's picture
Twisted Brick

Thanks for your quick response, David.  I guess I can relax a little when I try my first set of successive batches in the WFO.  I am looking forward to attempting a multi-day cold SD rest (like my yeasted pizza doughs) someday soon.

John

Twisted Brick's picture
Twisted Brick

Aha!  Just what I suspected, given our SoCal temps.  If using the limited-capacity house oven, I think I'm going to do this: once I've added my salt and levain, split the dough into a room temp rise and a 60F cooler.  Conduct slap and folds at normal intervals, followed by shaping and final proofs in staggered succession.  Hopefully, the 'cooler' batch gives me enough time to bake the first batch.  Maybe I'll only have to retard it for an hour to gain an hour...

BTW - Where are you buying your wheat berries?  I can only imagine how aggressive fresh-milled flour is.

John

SCChris's picture
SCChris

I've picked up my berries at both Whole Foods and Grist and Toll in Pasadena.  Grist and Toll has Red Fife, Sonora and Triple IV, I haven't tried the Red Fife but the Triple IV excels at hearth loaves.

Bob's is a good WW flour brand and Community Grains is available at the Pasadena Whole Foods and so might be available near you.  Are you now milling?

 

Chris

 

SCChris's picture
SCChris

I've picked up my berries at both Whole Foods and Grist and Toll in Pasadena.  Grist and Toll has Red Fife, Sonora and Triple IV, I haven't tried the Red Fife but the Triple IV excels at hearth loaves.

Bob's is a good WW flour brand and Community Grains is available at the Pasadena Whole Foods and so might be available near you.  Are you now milling?

 

Chris

 

Twisted Brick's picture
Twisted Brick

Its something in the back of my mind, probably for later.  Its just that I saw a poster here mention she bought a mill on Craigslist and got me thinking about it.  I really need to get more experience under my belt first, especially with whole grain breads.  When it's time I will be bombarding you with more questions on recipes, and especially mills.

John

SCChris's picture
SCChris