Baking Bread in a Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens were made for baking. In the hands of a practiced baker, a Dutch oven will create beautiful breads and desserts. (Though some of us tend to burn breads in a Dutch oven.)
You can always bake bread in a well-oiled Dutch oven but instead of baking directly in the oven, consider this method: Put the dough in a baking pan and the pan in the Dutch oven.
Recently, a reader from California told us of her success baking bread with a pan inside of a Dutch oven. She used a mix for Irish Potato Bread. This mix creates a large loaf and she made it according to package instructions. She formed the dough into a round loaf and placed the dough in a greased nine-inch metal pie pan. She then set the pan atop small rocks in bottom of her twelve-inch Dutch oven. She put the lid on the Dutch oven and the oven on ten briquette coals. Another fourteen briquettes went on the top. She baked the bread for 45 minutes, turning the lid occasionally. She was baking at an elevation of 7,000 in the Sequoia Mountains.
"I was surprised and delighted to find that the bread was perfect," she said. "The crust was brown on top and it was a real treat . . . a great success."
You should have similar success baking rolls in a baking pan or a loaf in a traditional bread pan. To get the right-sized loaves for a Dutch oven, consider bread machine mixes or recipes for single loaves. A bread machine mix will give you that single loaf or smaller batch of rolls, just right for a Dutch oven. If you crowd two loaves into a Dutch oven, there may not be adequate air circulation between the loaves. Without adequate space, the loaves will tend to be lopsided.
It is important that you elevate the pan off the bottom of the Dutch oven using small stones so that it does not burn the bottom of the bread. Make sure that you have enough top clearance so that the rising bread does not reach the lid.
You can use this same technique to bake great desserts or pastries. Consider baking sweet rolls or pasties in a raised pan in your Dutch oven.
Dennis Weaver is the general manager at The Prepared Pantry (http://www.preparedpantry.com) with recipes, ideas, and the best selection of mixes and ingredients. Visit the free Bakers' Library for more articles like this, free baking guides, and tested recipes.
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