The Fresh Loaf

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Burned loaf with Dutch oven

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Burned loaf with Dutch oven

In Ken Forkish’s book, Flour Water Salt Yeast, he bakes loaves in a preheated dutch oven.

I tried it using a Le Creuset dutch oven (enamel on cast iron), but the bread burned black on the bottom. So, I bought an oven thermometer but it says that my oven is accurate.

Next time, I lowered the temperature by 25° and shortened baking time. The bottom was not quite as black, but it still had to be cut off. Unfortunately, oven spring was not as good. 

Have you had success with this method? What brand of dutch oven?

CelesteU's picture

I've baked right over a thousand (no lie, I just did the math) loaves in enameled cast iron pots over the past 4 years. Very few burned bottoms.  Try changing the position of your oven racks....bake as high in the oven as possible.  Your oven temp may be accurate, overall, but you are likely experiencing a "hot spot" near the floor of the oven as the heat cycles on.

Another tip is to use a 10" round of parchment between the dough and the pot.  It won't reduce burning, but it will make it a heckuva lot easier to get a loaf out of the pot when it does burn,

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Do you preheat the dutch oven? 

idaveindy's picture

My trick is to put a large cookie sheet, roasting pan, or baking stone on the rack position below the rack where the dutch oven is.  I don't put the dutch oven directly on the sheet/pan/stone, so there are a few inches of space in between.

The sheet, pan, or stone then blocks the "direct radiant heat" of the lower heating  element.  (My oven does not bake with the upper heating element, but it does pre-heat with it.)

Use a big enough sheet or pan, and center everything,  so that no part of the heating element can "see" the bottom of the dutch oven.  If the heating element can "see" the side of the dutch oven, that's oaky.

For those few seconds when that lower element turns on, every few minutes during the bake, the "direct radiant heat" that "shines" on anything close, actually gets the surface hotter than the oven temperature setting.  

If you don't have a big enough pan or sheet or stone, aluminum foil will do, shiny side down.  It's not the insulating property we're after, it's to block the radiation.  Like how the sun can be hot on your skin, even on a not-hot day.  You're putting the dutch oven in the "shade" and letting the hot air cook it.

Whatever you use, make sure there is at least 1.75" of space all around it, between it and the oven walls, so that the air naturally circulates.

 It's a tad slower, so allow about 5 minutes more in a 40 minute bake.  But it also results in a thinner and softer bottom crust, which is what I prefer.

I use the blocking trick when pre-heating the oven and dutch oven too. 

idaveindy's picture

to lightly sprinkle some semolina (or coarse corn meal) on the bottom of the dutch oven.

Then put a layer of parchment paper over it, cut to size to just cover the bottom and a leeetle bit up the curve of the sides.

Then lightly sprinkle more semolina, or corn meal on top of the parchment, then load in the dough.

That will act as a bit of insulation.  When doing this, probably don't need the "sun screen" I previously described.

gerryp123's picture

Have baked many loaves with a variety of DOs -- Cast Iron, Enamel coated, Aluminum.  Never a burnt bottom

Parchment paper under loaf (primarily to help move loaf in/out of DO).  Might add some insulation.

Preheat to 500F; then bake with covered DO for 20 min at 450F; then bake for approx 30 min at 420F with cover off  (varies with recipe - need to experiment)

Convection baking to circulate heated air around DO

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sometimes you need to make a heat diffuser below the pot, esp. if it's a gas oven. A diffuser can be a splatter screen or a crunched sheet of foil.  To make one from foil take a large sheet, lay it flat on a table and with your finger tips crunch up the foil against the table until it is slightly bigger than the bottom of the pot and about an inch high.  Now set the pot on top of the foil and press down the foil scrunching until it is about pencil thick. Move the pot around to flatten evenly. I've also used a foil pie tin, smashing it flat with the Dutch oven.  Use this directly under the pot or one shelf down under the pot while baking.  If it works for you, use it over and over again. 

Maverick's picture

I have read about this issue a few times. Most of the solutions are given above, but here are the things I remember working (including things above):

Corn meal
Parchment paper or double layer of parchment paper if a single layer doesn't work
Corn meal on top of parchment, or on bottom if you don't want it in the bread
Changing rack position
Putting something between the bottom of the oven and the DO to avoid direct heat (a cookie sheet, broiling pan, etc)
Lowering the temperature
Taking the bread out of the DO after steaming and finishing it on the rack (making a parchment paper sling helps with this)

You can do any combination of the above of course.

tpassin's picture

I have had the same problem of the burnt bottom in every Dutch Oven I've tried that had a black surface, which is most of them.  I'm pretty sure that this is caused by the fact that a black surface is more effective at transmitting heat to its interior than a light colored one.

I folded up a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil to a disk shape to fit the bottom of one of my cast iron DOs.  I didn't want the dough to flow into the folded nooks and crannies or stick to the foil disk, so I also cut a disk of parchment paper and put it on top of the foil.

These disks succeeded in preventing the bottom of the loaves from scorching.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

oven shelf up a notch or put the dutch oven on top of the scrunched aluminum foil.  Burning the bread bottoms is also a sign the oven (and dutch oven) may be too hot.