The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

XL Dutch Oven Questions

leem0's picture
leem0

XL Dutch Oven Questions

Hi guys,

I'm new to baking sourdough bread, and I have made a few this year. They taste great, but don't rise enough. I've tried different pots I have around my house but none seem to do the trick well enough. I recently discovered I can use a very large dutch oven from  my girlfriends parents, but it is very large. So, i'm pretty sure the bread won't touch the sides. I don't know enugh about bread baking, but Im guessing this will effect how it shapes. I imagine it will result in the dough being too flat, right??

I can't afford a proper sized dutch oven at the moment, or at least I haven't found one I want to spend on yet, so I would like to try this one from the parents. Is it possible to somehow place something in the pot so the bread won't flatten out? 

If not, the recipe I use says to split the dough (1000g flour 750 gram water) into two smaller loaves before I shape and bake. My 3rd question is could I avoid this and just bake a super big loaf in my super big dutch oven? 

I would really appreciate any help! 

Thank you!!!

 

Short version for the tired: I have a XL Dutch Oven. Can I bake sourdough in it without it flattening out? Because the dough won't touch the sides. Is there a way to keep the shape of the dough while it is in the pot? If not, could I bake a monster loaf rather than seperating the dough into 2 loaves before the shape and bake?

:)

David R's picture
David R
  1. Yes, you can make the extra-large loaf. When you change loaf size and change the pot too, you may end up with your temperature or your preheating time being off. It's a bit of an experiment, to get your oven and your pot and your loaf size all working together.
  2. The quality difference between the very expensive Dutch ovens and the medium-priced ones is not significant. The super-cheap ones are probably safer to avoid, but the most famous well-known names (though very good of course) are just not worth the price. (They probably were, some years ago - but now that they've become a very popular item, every company wants to cash in on the trend, and most of them are actually fine.)
leem0's picture
leem0

Great! Thanks for the tips. Have you any ideas on what temp I should bake a 1000g flour and 750g water sough at in a large DO? 

I do also have a casserole dish, but I find it lets out a little too much steam. I think it does anyway, could also be my shoddy dough! :)

eddieruko's picture
eddieruko

There are several bakers here who prefer DOs, but many do not. The DO is primarily used for trapping steam during the early part of the bake. And there are many methods to generate steam in our home ovens. I bake two loaves at a time (up to 1kg each) on a baking steel in my oven... no DO. I make steam with water poured over lava rocks in a cast iron pan.

If you're not getting the rise you desire, it is likely something you can adjust with your process much earlier in the dough development. Without knowing your process, it may be a weaker starter or levain, or it may be not enough gluten developed early in the mix. Make sure your starter is at its peak, and your levain is active (some begin to mix in their levain after only 5 hours of starting it, others 12 hours). Gluten gives the dough strength and structure as it ferments. If you use a mixer, try mixing at low speed for 5 minutes when you mix your ingredients. If by hand, you want to be able to pull on the dough without it tearing apart.

You could make a super large loaf, but keep an eye on the bake time and temps. Larger loaves can be unruly, especially if you're worried about them going flat. 

At the end of the day, I wouldn't worry about the dough touching the sides of the dutch oven... don't let that stop you from baking.

Enjoy!

leem0's picture
leem0

Great! thank you. 

How do I know when my starter is at the peak? I do the float test usually and it floats, but I heard that can also be a false sign sometimes? 

Thanks again.

David R's picture
David R

Your starter has "habits", which you get used to and expect. For example, if you feed it in your usual way, then you know it will probably reach its peak in the usual X amount of time after that.

wally's picture
wally

You do NOT want the dough touching the sides of the dutch oven. It’s purpose, as noted above, is to generate steam for the first 20 minutes of the bake, which is required for hearth breads. It’s purpose is NOT to provide shape or support for your loaf. That’s what your shaping is supposed to do. A large dutch oven with a small loaf should not be a problem; nor should a dutch oven with a large loaf. Remember to remove the lid after the initial 15-20 min of the bake so the loaf can properly dry out and brown. Pro tip: most folks try to drop the loaf into the bottom of the DO and then cover with the lid - this can deflate the loaf. Try placing the loaf on the lid and then covering with the larger pot portion and baking that way.

leem0's picture
leem0

Great! I'll try that upside down pot method with my casserole dish that I've been using. Im gonna experiment with my pots a bit before I spend any money on a new one. 

Any tips on proper shaping? I always feel like I've done it wrong, although it looks good, I sometimes am not sure. 

Thanks a million. :)

gerryp123's picture
gerryp123

When baking with a DO I select the size to fit the loaf (or vice-versa).  The purpose of the DO is to allow steam from within the loaf, or from water sprayed onto the hot DO lid, to envelope the loaf and build a strong crust.  This takes place within the first few minutes of baking.  A DO much larger than the loaf would not work as well.  A DO small enough to allow the loaf to make side contact would also be undesirable.

Like most things in baking, success is finding the right compromise.  Lots of trial and error in the learning.

leem0's picture
leem0

Thank you for the response and help. I'm gonna expermient a bit with different pots: a Casserole dish I've been using and the DO I mentioned in my original post. 

Thanks again!

wally's picture
wally

Shaping round loaves (boules) can be a bit tricky, especially degassing the dough enough but not too much, and getting the bottom seam sealed. Here’s a link to a good video by Jeffrey Hamelman at King Arthur Flour. The portion you’ll be most interested in begins at 4:00 mark. 

https://youtu.be/cpqGHiPxuQU

 

leem0's picture
leem0

Thank you again! I really appreciate it!

Ill check out the video. 

chykcha's picture
chykcha

I use my old work horse Le Creuset duffeau and throw in a few ice cubes on the sides for extra crunchy crust. Good luck. 

leem0's picture
leem0

Thanks for the tip! 

How big is your pot? Just wondering if it is as big as my one. What temp differences do you cook it at?

 

Thanks!!

chykcha's picture
chykcha

It’s a big size, not overly huge. Does that help? :-) Sorry, I cant remember the exact size as I bought it over 18 years ago.  

 

leem0's picture
leem0

Ha! no problem. I also don't know the exact size of my one. :) 

Thanks anyway! 

David R's picture
David R

Your questions in this thread are intelligent, and I'm sure they're getting you closer to your goal, but I suggest that you might end up with better and faster success by focusing on "I want to make bread that is [fill in the blank] - how do I get that?"

By focusing on the pot shape and size, I think you're unnecessarily limiting yourself. No one's going to eat the pot. 😁

leem0's picture
leem0

Haha! thank you! I might end up eating the pot if the bread turns out bad. Hopefully not...

Thanks! :)