June 6, 2015 - 9:07pm
Dutch oven bread baking test
I wanted to see for myself if dutch oven bread baking lived up to all the hype. So I carried out a direct comparison by baking identical loaves at the same time, just one in the dutch oven and one on a baking tray. Forgive me here but I am scientist and so I just had to make this little test into a controlled experiment. See mybreadandbrot.com for details and more comparison pictures of the baked breads. The bottom line here is that in my humble opinion the bread bread did bake better in the dutch oven and I am really quite impressed with it. I used a basic whole wheat yeast bread recipe for this test.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who has good or bad experiences with sourdough baking in a dutch oven.
happy bread baking
While your results are pretty much in accord with what we know about baking in DOs versus not there are two issues that are unaddressed here. Those of us who do not use DOs have a mechanism for introducing steam into the first half of the bake. The DO as a closed container generates its own steam from moisture escaping from the baking bread which prevents the emerging crust from drying out too quickly. Secondly, you do not specify the type of baking tray used and I assume it's of the thin metal type. If so, these does not have the heat capacity/transfer properties that a DO has, Preheating a think baking tray really does not accomplish much. Those of us who do not use DOs (and I count myself as one of them as my oven is below waist height and I'm not especially keen to be lifting a DO in and out of the oven) use either a baking stone or steel (steel in my case). In order to get a more fair comparison you really would want to address those two issues.
The bread from the DO looks really good!
Thank you for your comment Alan. The two problems that you mentioned were considered in my DO test, but I realised that they were not sufficiently described in my post, so thanks for pointing this out.
The baking tray that I used was a thick heavy duty baking tray which does have some heat retaining properties. In my experience it works as well as a baking stone for baking bread.
I also introduced steam into the oven, but generally it is not very effective in my oven, That is, in fact, one of the main reasons I wanted to try baking in a DO.
I will go back and add those details to my original post.
The baking steel that I use is 1/4 inch thick and weighs in at about 15lbs so it's relatively heavy and retains heat quite well. It takes about two hours after the oven is turned off to get back down to room temperature and my oven does have a fan that stays on after turning off the oven. The oven has a convection feature which I turn off during the first half of the bake and I use the wet towels in a baking pan for steam. This works quite well for me as when I open the door to take the pan out after 15 minutes steam also comes rushing out. If your oven cannot hold steam then the DO method or some other cover is the way to go. If your baking sheet is a good heat conductor you might try to find inexpensive/disposable aluminum roasting pans that you can invert over the dough. This will serve the same purpose as the DO in terms of trapping moisture.
inverting an aluminium tray over the bread to trap the steam is a great tip for tray baking bread, thanks.
.... I've also tried stainless steel domes, terracotta cloches, baking stones, baking trays, loaf pans etc. I found that the DO did not give any significant improvement and had the disadvantage that I could only bake one loaf at a time. I managed to find some 'heavy duty' (and I emphasize the heavy duty bit) baking trays which were big enough to take two oval loaves - I can get two of these trays in my oven and therefore bake four loaves simultaneously. I get the same volume as I got with the DO and personally, I prefer the crumb of the non-DO loaves. Each to their own I suppose.
I've been using a DO for the past few months now since I had a harder time getting oven steam. I did have success with an iron pot filled with lava rock but I just tested Alan's towel method by place a couple of small towels in a large bowl and microwaving a few minutes. I pulled them out and was amazed at how much and how long steam came off. I'm gonna try the baking pan today mostly since I've read so much about a much better crust. I don't have a baking steel but do have a cast iron pizza pan which is pretty thick so I hope it works out.
the DO is nothing magical or technical, it simply bakes nice bread by providing high heat and steam. If these 2 requirements can be fulfilled in other ways then the bread will be equally good. Its great to read about home bakers tips and tricks along these lines, thanks for sharing
I have two Dutch ovens and one stone that I use with a stainless cover and the DO's develop MUCH better crust. In the same oven, with same dough, same amount of time, the stone/lid loaves are pale and relatively soft-crusted, where the DO loaves develop deep, rich color, nice blistering and FAR superior oven spring.
The radiant heat effect of the DOs is quite obvious. After 20 minutes, the non-DO loaf is very pale, and the scoring doesn't usually break open, and NEVER like it does in the DOs.
Look at the picture in this thread at the 14th post: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/42066/got-offer-bake-two-local-cafes-uh-oh
The loaves on the left were baked at the same time as the loaves on the right. See what I mean?
BTW, that video from Sinclair's Bakery in the above thread is awesome!!! I got tired watching him work!
I also get a far superior, oven spring, crust and colour with the DO, so I like it.
Well done on your expansion into the world of commercial big baking, it looks great, just one month in.
I guess their is no perfect method since people prefer one or another. As of today, I doubt I'll go back to a DO. the batards I made were awesome with steam from from towels and cooked on a iron pizza pan. The crust was so crispy and even all the way round. I used the David Snyder recipe for sourdough in both instances and my DO is cast iron as well. However, there is one difference that I did and that was cook the dough on parchment paper vs. not in the DO. So that is one point of conflict I have here. The DO always made the bottom of the bread crust thick and not good. But it did blister the upper part to golden color. So to be fair, maybe the parchment paper might help over cooking bottom. Just my thoughts.
Your dutch oven may need to be raised to a higher shelf if the bottom crust is coming out overdone. My bread comes out perfect. One thing I do is, upon removing the lid, I put it under the the pan to help insulate the bottom of the loaf for the second half of the bake.
Never had a scorched loaf, or tough crust, except when I baked on the lower shelf instead of closer to the middle of my oven.
Thank! I'll keep that in mind next time! My DO is as high as I can get it but I could use a ceramic stone or some other insulator between them.
It sits on a separate rack below my DO. That said, you may have to try a few different variations to see what works best for you in your oven.
I was having problems with my bread getting too dark on the bottom of my DO... even with the parchment paper, and cornmeal burned. I solved the problem by putting a rack on the bottom like this one on Amazon - link
I covered it with foil just so the dough won't sink between the wires and I use a parchment sling to put my bread in the DO. Downside is that the bottom doesn't get brown, so I take the bread out for the last 5 minutes or so and finish cooking on the oven rack which does the trick.