Make Great Bread in Your Dutch Oven Inside
I’m a huge fan of cooking in a dutch oven. In a lot of my posts you’ll hear me say we’ve been cooking with cast iron for over a thousand years. Bread goes back much much further and is one of the first foods cooked by civilized people. In fact historians claim bread and it’s close cousin beer were major factors for a civilized agrarian society. If you want to make a true artisan loaf I suggest you get old fashioned and break out the cast iron for some amazing dutch oven bread!
Why Bake Bread in a Dutch Oven?
There are two main reasons to bake bread in a dutch oven. The first is because you want fresh bread while camping and you want to make all of your fellow campers jealous with the smell of fresh baked bread. The second is because you want the best homemade bread possible! The amazing crispy crust you get from a commercial baker comes from their steam ovens. By cooking in a dutch oven you use the steam escaping from the bread to create the same effect. And you don’t even have to do it outside. In fact even though this site specializes in outdoor cooking, I actually made this loaf inside.
Indoor Dutch Oven Baking
I woke up wanting to make some dutch oven bread but when I looked out the window I saw a cold, gloomy, rainy, February day. Foul weather doesn’t normally keep me from cooking outside but I just wasn’t having it today. The good news is for dutch oven bread you can do it inside too. Granted it’s not as impressive as cooking bread with charcoal but it still tastes just as good. You have to remember that the coals are just a heat source, and most indoor kitchens have a pretty big heat source called an oven.
I imagine Pimp My Ride’s Xzibit jumping in here saying ‘yo dog, I heard you like ovens, so I put a dutch oven in your oven’.
That was probably funnier in my head. It really is that easy though. The only think you have to do is preheat your dutch oven in advance of the actual baking. I normally start preheating my oven about the time I start rising my dough. That way it’s had a good hour and a half to heat up when I finally start baking.
A Good Artisan Bread Recipe For Dutch Oven Bread
Since you’re going to want a lot of steam coming out of your loaf to give you a crispy crust you will want to use a very moist dough. If you’ve looked at dutch oven bread recipes before you’ve probably seen a lot of no-knead recipes. These work great because of their high water content. No-knead bread is delicious, but it takes 24-48 hours of prep. This recipe is a more traditional kneaded dough but still has a high moisture content making it perfect for the dutch oven.
Make a Yeast Slurry
Start by making a yeast slurry with 1 cup water, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt, and 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast. You can omit the sugar if you want a more authentic artisan loaf, but everyone in my house likes the slightly sweeter bread. Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes until a head of foam appears. This means the yeast is activated.
Next pour the yeast slurry into two cups of flour. Bread flour is preferred, but all-purpose will work. If you are using a stand mixer use your bread hook and mix on low for 10 minutes. Since it’s a moist dough you may have to pour out onto a floured counter top and knead by hand a bit to finish it up. If you need to add a little flour to get it to form up that’s OK. Just try to keep it good and sticky.
I actually prefer kneading this by hand so I can see how the dough feels. It will be quite sticky at first. As you knead it the gluten will activate and it should start sticking to itself more than it does you. Continue to knead until you can see the texture of the dough has changed and it will hold it’s own shape. A simple gluten test can show you if it’s done. Pull a small piece of dough off, form a ball, and try to stretch it out. If the dough stretches to the point light is coming through without breaking you are done kneading.
You need to let your dough rise for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size. I like to lightly coat my dough with olive oil and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. You can also lightly flour it and cover as well. Either way be sure to give the plastic room to pull up as the dough rises. It’s at this point that I put the dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
The dough should be doubled in size after 45-60 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and punch the dough down with your fingers. Roll it out onto a floured countertop and knead for a few more minutes. Be sure to create lots of folds so you have plenty of air pockets in the bread. If the dough gets too stiff just stop and let it sit a few minutes to relax the gluten.
Form the dough back into a ball or whatever shape you want the final loaf to be. A round loaf is easiest since the dutch oven is round. Be sure to pinch closed any openings on the bottom of the loaf.
Lightly flour the bottom of the loaf and set it on a piece of parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap again and let rise for 30 minutes or until it has doubled in size again. If you let it rise too long it will collapse in on itself and not make a very good loaf.
When the bread is ready to bake remove the plastic wrap and score the top of the loaf with a knife. Scoring allows the loaf to expand rapidly without tearing deep into the bread. It also allows you to add some design to the way the baked loaf looks and control how it opens up. In this loaf I was going with a simple square scoring.
The parchment paper provides the perfect tool to easily place your loaf in the dutch oven and to remove it. Set the loaf and paper inside and gently tuck the sides down. Be careful so you don’t burn yourself because the dutch oven is extremely hot right now. Place the lid back on and close the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. If you plan on using an egg wash mix it now using one egg white and 1 – 2 tablespoons water.
This is what it should look like when it comes out. Waste no time in getting it on a wire rack. You can leave it just like this or apply an egg wash now. The egg wash will give the crust a deeper and shiny color. It will also make it a little softer.
After applying the egg wash let it sit on a wire rack for at least an hour before cutting. That is, if you are able to resist tearing into it right away. If you can wait it is best to let it cool and let the steam settle down before cutting to avoid drying the loaf out.
Dutch Oven Bread Recipe
- 1 cup Water
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 tbsp sugar (optional)
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 - 3 cup flour
Combine water, salt, active dry yeast, and sugar to make a yeast slurry. Let sit for 10-20 minutes until foaming to activate yeast.
Mix yeast slurry into 2 cups flour. Completely mix and then knead for 10 - 15 minutes until dough springs back when stretched and is no longer sticky. Form into a ball.
Optional: Coat dough in olive oil.
Cover with towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 45 - 60 minutes.
While dough is rising place dutch oven in oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Oven should be hot for at least one hour before baking.
When dough has doubled in size punch down with finger tips. Knead and fold for a couple of minutes and then form into loaf. Place on parchment paper and cover to rise again.
When dough has doubled in size place inside use parchment paper to lift dough and place inside of dutch oven. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes.
Remove bread from oven and cool on a wire rack. Brush with an egg wash after removing if desired. Serve after cooling at least 60 minutes.
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Want more dutch oven recipes? Click here to learn how to make fantastic desserts like Bananas Foster or tasty sides like baked beans. I even make pizza in a dutch oven! And please let me know what you thought of this post in the comments below; I’d love to hear from you.
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