Baking Bread in a Dutch Oven! (see post below for winner of the book giveaway!)

dutch oven bread

Here is yet another way to get a fabulous crust on your bread without using any steam in the oven. I mentioned my very unsophisticated disposable lasagna pan as an option and now I present you with yet another ingenious idea. Baking bread in a Dutch oven was made popular by a Mark Bittman’s article in the New York Times  about baker Jim Lahey. He introduced home bakers to a professional style bread that didn’t require a steam injected oven.  All the iron-pot methods are based on the old European technique of baking inside a closed clay pot.  Most people don’t have one of those, but enameled cast-iron pots are readily available– and they trap all of the internal moisture in the dough and that creates the steam you need to get a crisp and shiny crust. It really is fantastic and it works perfectly with our stored doughs from the book.

As you can imagine, the only drawback to this method is that you are limited to a bread that is the shape of your Dutch oven. Luckily, Le Creuset has several shapes to choose from and I’m determined to try them all! The company even sells a special knob that can withstand the 500°F baking temperature of this method. All of these items (including the metal replacement knob) are available in Minneapolis-St. Paul at Cooks of Crocus Hill or nationally through Amazon (which offers a 7 1/4 quart pot, a 6 3/4 quart oval,  a two-quart, and others.  There are other brands, but I have not tried them!

dutchoven

Using a metal replacement knob is really essential to baking with this method, the hard plastic knobs will smoke at 500°F.  Otherwise you’re limited to the maximum temperature recommended by Le Creuset (usually 450 degrees), and the crust won’t get as crisp.

dutchoven

Preheat the pot with the lid on to 500°F for about 20 minutes.  I used a 7 1/4 quart pot to bake a 1 1/2 pound loaf of bread.

dutch oven bread

Shape your boule from any of the non-enriched doughs from the book and allow to rest on a piece of parchment paper as suggested in the recipe. I used the master recipe for this loaf and let it rise for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, because it was larger than normal. I find it easiest to get the dough into the very hot pot if I can drop it in right on the paper.

dutch oven bread

Slash the dough 1/4″ deep.

dutch oven bread

VERY carefully lift the dough and drop it, with paper and all into the preheated pot.  This can be awkward the first time you do it. I took the pot out of the oven and rested it on a cooling rack so that it was at a comfortable height to get the dough in without fear of touching the hot pot! It is very easy, but just be careful! Replace the lid and slip it back into the oven.

dutch oven bread

After 15 minutes of baking remove the lid. The dough only needs to bake in the steam for that amount of time. now it is time to get a lovely caramel color to the bread. Turn the heat down to 450°F and bake for another 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf.

dutch oven bread

Once the loaf is nicely browned, carefully remove it from the pot with a spatula.

dutch oven bread

Peel off the parchment and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

dutch oven bread

Once the bread is totally cool, cut and you can see how fantastic the crumb is! Enjoy!!!



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506 thoughts on “Baking Bread in a Dutch Oven! (see post below for winner of the book giveaway!)

  1. I bought an enamel cast iron pot just for bread baking but it says do not heat up empty
    I see you did heat up the creuset and it seemed fine…should I go for it?

    1. Hi Margot,

      Is it a Le Creuset? If so, I have used mine for this purpose for years. You will want to switch out the knob for a medal one, but otherwise it is fine to use. The interior may discolor slightly, but that doesn’t effect its baking ability.

      Thanks, Zoë

    2. I called Lodge, the maker of my new dutch oven and was told to fill it about halfway with water, preheat and pour the water out when ready to bake.

      1. Hi Adele,

        I’ve never done this and have never heard of anyone else doing it, but the Lodge folks would know best. I will continue to do it without the water, but if you are scared it may somehow ruin your Dutch Oven, then play it safe for sure.

        Thanks, Zoë

    1. I would recommend using the regular cast iron dutch oven over the enameled one if the enamel is light color. The heat will turn the enamel dark brown/grey. It does not hurt the pan it just does not look nice. I purchased a lodge set for ~$30 where the top (lid) can also be used as a skillet. You can also put the loaf in the lid, heat the pan, then put the pan over the loaf and back into the oven.

  2. Hi I just made my big batch of dough last night, it looks really good. First time. I wanted to make a bread in my cast iron dutch oven, it is only 4qt. how much dough should I use and do I change the timing at all?? Love your book, excited about the recipes in it.

  3. You mentioned that the shape of the pot effects the shape of the loaf but does the volume of the pot matter; i.e. 7 quarts vs 4 quart ?

    1. Hi Mimi,

      Do you use an oven thermometer? Was the Dutch oven near the top of your oven? Which recipe are you baking?

      Thanks, Zoë

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