The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Oven Spring using a Dutch Oven

gerryp123's picture
gerryp123

Oven Spring using a Dutch Oven

When using a DO to bake bread my DO is usually preheated to 500F in a convection oven, and the temperature is then lowered to about 450F-convection when the baking begins.

I recently saw a recipe for a multi-grain bread (using 7-grain hot cereal) that proofed the dough directly in a cold DO, then scored it after proofing, then secured the cover and popped it into a 450F oven for the initial (20 min) trapped-steam bake interval.  Claimed that procedure enhanced oven spring.  Make any sense?

Questions: 

Should DO be hot or cold at the start of baking?  Any difference in the end result?

Does it mater if the DO is cast-iron, aluminum, or some other material, so long as it has a tight cover and traps steam?

 

BreadLee's picture
BreadLee

I always preheat my dutch oven and the results are very nice.  Mine is cast iron.  Never used anything else.  

Remove the lid after the initial steaming time.  

wheatbeat's picture
wheatbeat

I don't really see how slowly ramping up bake temperature contributes to oven spring, and most certainly it has the opposite effect. Oven spring comes from strong radiant heat - the exact point of a professional deck oven. That fast strong heat does two things: it expands gases trapped in the dough and it dramatically increases the rate of fermentation until the internal dough temperature gets to around 140F.

The only way this would work out is if you planned to make your initial proof time short so that it completes proofing as the temperature rises slowly in the DO. But that is unlikely to help with oven spring.

Is this a reputable source suggesting this? 

gerryp123's picture
gerryp123

Read about this in "Cook it in your Dutch Oven" (America's Test Kitchen) - p266  "Seeded Seven Grain Bread"

Seems to contradict other stuff I've read.

wheatbeat's picture
wheatbeat

Yeah, that's the equivalent of putting proofed dough into a deck oven cold and then turning the oven on. I can't imagine how that would help your bread in a predictable way. If ultra-vigorous gas-producing fermentation is the theoretical goal (and the only one I can think of), then I would just proof at a high temperature in a more controlled fashion than using this method.

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

I have a Cooks Illustrated online membership so I did some background reading. (They generally do extensive recipe testing so it is always worth giving them the benefit of the doubt.)

From what I could find from reading their background info on their various no-knead (they call them 'almost no knead') recipes, they recommend the cold start because it prevents scorching on the bottom of the loaf, while oven spring was unchanged.

If memory serves I have also seen a Tartine workshop video where dough was loaded into cold dutch ovens and then into hot ovens. It's my impression that neither a preheated vessel nor a preheated oven has much, if any, effect on the degree of oven spring, as counterintuitive as that is.

Ah.

And here is a comprehensive write-up, with photos, of testing done by the King Arthur Flour team, which found no difference in oven spring between cold and hot baking vessel: https://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2017/07/05/baking-in-a-cold-dutch-oven/

 

gerryp123's picture
gerryp123

Excellent comparison from KA -- Thanks Jess

 

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

One other thing: I saw you asked about if it matters what the Dutch oven is made of.

I have found that bread sticks like crazy to pyrex, so if you're going to bake directly in a pyrex dish I'd suggest treat it like a cake and either butter and flour the pan well or use parchment on the bottom and sides.

I  seem to get sightly better steaming from my clay roaster then the enamelled steel.  Maybe the lid seals better, or the water soaked into the clay lid makes a difference, I'm not sure.

Many people who use a stone deck get great results from inverting a stainless bowl or a roasting pan over the bread for the first 20 minutes of baking.

I think any way you can trap humidity in a small space around the loaf will give good results. A trip to the nearest large thrift store is likely to present you with a variety of options. (That's where I got both roasters, several loaf pans, baskets, a baguette pan, etc.)

David R's picture
David R

There are several possible factors in determining the best material for a bread-baking container.

  • The kind of bread, because different styles of bread may benefit from different treatment.
  • The kind of oven, for many reasons - including that in some types of ovens it's best to use no container at all.
  • Ease of handling and cleaning, because if you can't manage those tasks then you'll do a poor job with your bread, or even give up.
  • How well and how evenly it "holds the heat" for browning
  • How quickly it heats up and cools down
  • Durability (against scratches, cracking, etc)
  • Your previous habits (At first, you'll make better bread with any reasonably decent equipment that you're already very familiar with, even if it turns out that there's much better equipment "out there" that you haven't tried).
  • More factors - what did I forget? Anyway, oven spring is only one factor in a much bigger question.
chgo_bread's picture
chgo_bread

One way to bridge the gap is to use a Granite Ware covered pan, like the bean pot or DO, instead. It transfers heat almost immediately, so you can put it into the oven cold and the oven temperature will transmit to the dough almost as quickly as if you had put it in a preheated cast iron DO.

I believe I first read about this on another thread here at The Fresh Loaf.

David R's picture
David R

..."Granite Ware" being one brand name for thin steel with enamel coating.

gerryp123's picture
gerryp123

I was able to find the vid that initiated my question regarding "hot or cold DO baking".  An "America's Test Kitchen" lesson on basic SD baking from scratch.  Take a look at 17:20 where the baker explains why he starts with a cold DO.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyUNtvj6KmE

End result looks about the same as my "hot DO" bakes !