The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dropped the dutch oven

adrianjm's picture

Dropped the dutch oven


I'm starting to make ok sourdough in my dutch oven, but this method limits me to a single boule shape and I'd like to try a few other methods. Today I baked a boule outside of the oven with mixed results and would like some tips for improvement.

I am using the 1-2-3 method for ingredients and previous results using a DO looks like this:


However, the same method, without the dutch oven was thus:


It was a much cooler day today in Melbourne, so perhaps I did not give it enough time to proof, even though it had an extra hour on account of the 15 degrees C temp difference.

Additionally, the crust was really smooth with a sheen I do not particularly like. Like most people, I like to see big ears and rough surfaces. I don't normally use a steam pan or spray the bread with the DO method, but this time I did both to provide moisture.

Is it possible to replicate DO results without one? What recommendations could I implement to improve results so I might be able to make batards, dinner rolls etc? Ideally, I would love to be able to make miniature replica's  of the top picture, thus increasing my crust/crumb ratio, as we are a crust loving (lusting?) family.





Southbay's picture

is to be encased in a raging hot Dutch oven. Things crust over too fast without a good lid or steam. 

BreadBabies's picture

If you have a pizza stone large enough to accommodate your loaf shapes, then you can try covering them with those big aluminum roasting pans -- the disposable kind. Personally, I've never done this, but I've seen others do it.

If you've got money to burn (and I mean a lot of money to burn) you can buy cloches of different shapes.

A popular method for steaming non-boule shapes around here and the one taught by the San Francisco Baking Institute is to use lava rocks. Set them in a pan and place a perforated pie plate on top of the pan. Preheat them in your oven below your bread rack.  When you put your bread in the oven, dump ice cubes on the pie plate.  Admittedly, it's not as good as a closed environment, but that seems to be the going best practice for non-boule shapes.  As I do not have a perforated pie plate, I just dump water on the lava rocks when I put my loaves in.  (Watch out for your oven glass.  Cover it with a towel during this procedure.)

adrianjm's picture

Damn! Was afraid there would be no substitute.

Perhaps I can invest in a few small dutch ovens. Perhaps two that will fit in my oven. At least then I get 2 loaves in one bake.




Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Or you can use more than two, if they're the right size! These ones are 3 quart (I think).

leslieruf's picture

in "DO"s - one is an old enamelled steel roasting dish, the other a cast iron roaster I bought back from Europe (cost much much less than anything I found here in NZ). the trick was finding something to fit the available space and provided that I have the rack on the correct rung, it works brilliantly and I can bake two loaves at a time. I just get a far far better oven spring this way. 

happy hunting for alternatives! lava rocks, maybe an old pot or bowl used as a cover on a pizza stone.

Portus's picture

... or 1" granite baking stone since I swopped out for a le Creuset rectangular cast iron reversible grill, SS mixing bowl and steam from lava rocks in a roasting pan.  Results are more than satisfactory, especially time saved compared to heating the granite baking stone or DO.  Attached pix are from this morning's bake - Hamelman's Pain Rustique.

AndyPanda's picture

What temps do you use with the cast iron grill? I have a 1/2" steel in my oven (for pizza) but I haven't figured out how to use it for bread without scorching the bottom. Doesn't the cast iron take just as long to preheat as the baking stone? My thick steel takes a really long time to preheat.

Portus's picture

... griller is quite slender, maybe 4-5mm thick, though it does have a reverse side that is grooved, and which would add to the effective thickness or heat-absorbing surface area.  For baking with steam, I start at 260C with convection fan for half an hour, and once loaves are loaded, misting is complete and the pan filled with about 1/2 cup water, I stop the fan and set the gauge to what the recipe recommends - generally 235C.

I use parchment, which I remove simultaneous with rotating the loaves/removing the steam.  If the loaf base is scorched, it is to a minimal degree, which seems to dissipate during cooling and leaving no after-taste.  This method also gives a decent oven spring. 

As to my granite baking stone, I hazard a guess that the cast iron at least halves the time to required heat.

If I have a complaint, it is that the cast iron is almost too small to accommodate two normal-sized loaves, and certainly too narrow for a decent, round pizza base (though quite adequate for a rectangular version, which I understand is more authentic, certainly if Sicilian?).

Arjon's picture

It's obviously easier if you have an oval one, bit it's not impossible in a round one either. The wider the round DO is, the better of course, so that you can get a longer loaf. You'll want to use a dough that will hold its shape rather than expanding to fill the full width of the DO, so possibly lower hydration than you use for boules. Shaping ability matters as well. 

sirrith's picture

I use an inverted steam pan/Hotel pan with a handle I attached on top of my baking steel (or stone). I inject steam through a hole in the steam pan using a handheld steam cleaner. Works at least as well as a Dutch oven, if not better.