Dutch Oven Bread

By Chef Megan Joy / April 2, 2013

Hello friends! Today has been an odd mix of sunshine, rain, and snow. It’s the kind of weather that makes you want to stay indoors, so I am doing exactly that. The kitchen has gotten a good work out and I’m really pleased with the results.

fps-country-bread-2

fps-country-bread

fps-beer-bread-2

I have recently discovered a fantastic way to bake bread that produces a very crusty, artisan-style loaf. It requires no special equipment- just one simple item- a cast iron dutch oven.

The dutch oven and lid are placed in a preheated 450 F oven for 30 minutes before you are ready to bake your loaf. In this way the dutch oven continues to build and retain heat- this is perfect for baking your bread. After it has preheated, it will be all hot and ready.

The proofed dough is gently (and carefully- mind you, that dutch oven is hot!) placed into the bottom of the pot, covered, and sent on it’s way to crusty perfection. Bake the bread covered for about 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the bread is a glorious golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

hab-dutch-oven-2

hab-dutch-oven-6

Using some tongs, carefully remove the loaf and let it cool a bit…then get ready to slice into your beautiful loaf of bread with a great crusty, crunchy exterior. The inside will be soft and tender.

I was a little skeptical when I first learned about this method, but tasting my first loaf baked this way brought back memories of baking bread in pastry school. We had access to deck ovens and I ate some of the best bread in my life. This bread, like any artisanal bread, tastes best the day it’s baked. Once it’s wrapped, it will lose some of it’s crunch and the crust will get softer.

hab-dutch-oven-5

How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:

Dutch Oven Bread
adapted from 
Le Cordon Bleu Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen

Dutch Oven Bread
Recipe type: High Altitude Baking
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup warm water (105-110 F)
  • 1¾ teaspoons dry yeast
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
Instructions
  1. Activate the yeast by sprinkling it over the warm water in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Let the yeast sit for about 5 minutes, until it is foamy and bubbling. This signals that the yeast is working.
  3. Add the flours, salt, and sugar. Gently mix together until a dough starts to form.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 10-12 minutes, adding a little extra flour here and there if needed.
  5. The dough will be ready when it is smooth, elastic, and forms a "gluten window".
  6. A "gluten window" is when a small piece of dough can be stretched between your fingers into a small square shape without tearing. It will be thin and you can almost see through the dough.
  7. Place the dough in a lightly buttered bowl and turn once to coat.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof for about 30 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size.
  9. When your dough has nearly proofed, preheat your oven to 450 F.
  10. Once the oven is heated, place your dutch oven pot and lid inside of the oven and preheat them for 30 minutes.
  11. When the dough has completed proofing, punch it down and shape the dough into a small round ball- called a "boule".
  12. Place the ball of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with lightly buttered plastic wrap. Let the dough proof until doubled in size, about 25-30 minutes.
  13. Brush the top and sides of the boule with water.
  14. Using a sharp razor or knife, make two slashes in a cross pattern on the top of the dough.
  15. Carefully remove the dutch oven and lid from the oven, they will be very hot so take care not to burn your wrists or arms.
  16. Gently pick up the boule with your fingers by sliding them underneath. Try not to smash or damage the boule.
  17. Carefully lower the boule into the dutch oven. It's ok if you drop it 2-3" from the bottom. Cover it with the lid and place inside the oven.
  18. Bake the bread for 20 minutes, then take off the lid.
  19. Bake another 10 minute or so, until the outside and bottom are a golden brown and the boule sounds hollow when tapped.
 

Note: This recipe was adjusted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, increase the yeast to 2 teaspoons and account for longer proofing and baking of the bread.

About the author

Chef Megan Joy

14comments
Lynne - April 8, 2013

Hi-
I moved to the Andes mountains in Ecuador 5 months ago and have become a huge fan of your website and wonderful recipes. Thank you!

One question- I don’t think I can find cast iron here in Ecuador. Is it possible to make this recipe in a stainless steel dutch over with a tight fitting lid?

Thanks so much for all your help!

Reply
    Chef Megan Joy - April 9, 2013

    Hi Lynne! You are very welcome! I did some research and you should be able to use a stainless steel dutch oven and lid. The bread should come out with comparable texture but may require a shorter baking time. Another thing to consider is heating your pot empty in such a hot oven could cause warping. Good luck and happy baking!

    Reply
Shannon - May 13, 2013

So I’m attempted to make this break using a Kitchenaid bread hook (I hate kneading). The dough seems very wet and isn’t forming a ball like I”m used to seeing. I’ve added extra flour (maybe 1/3 cup) but it’s still behaving like I would expect. Is this supposed to be a traditional dough ball or should it be wet?

Reply
    Chef Megan Joy - May 13, 2013

    Hi Shannon. This is more of a traditional dough in that it forms a fairly smooth, not wet dough. Sometimes with bread making it’ll take a little kneading (even bread machine/electric mixer kneading) for it to start forming a more cohesive dough. Of course, sometimes the kitchen can also have an entirely different idea of what it wants to spit out that day too! Flour, especially at high altitudes, can vary greatly in how dry it is, and that could be a reason behind recipes that come out differently from time to time. Also, whole grain doughs will never be as smooth as doughs made with only white flour. There’s nothing wrong with adding more flour, as long as you don’t add so much that the dough turns into a tough, dry chunk. If I am making bread and the dough seems really wet, I’ll let it go a few minutes (give it 6-8 minutes, and see if it improves), if not, I’ll start sprinkling in flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough gets more body. This dough will be a little bit sticky/tacky, that’s totally normal. In this recipe, the bread gets baked in the dutch oven and the shape of dough really doesn’t matter. It will still come out crusty, and yours being a wet dough maybe it will have more of that spongy bread texture so many people desire. I’ve always believed the only way to become a master of a recipe is to make it numerous times!

    Reply
AIR - February 16, 2014

Hello! Can you use an enamel coated dutch oven (Le Crueset) or does it need to be traditional cast iron? Thanks!

Reply
    Chef Megan Joy - February 24, 2014

    Yes, Le Creuset works, but be sure to remove the plastic knob on the top, or wrap it in aluminum foil.

    Reply
Judith McKnight - December 23, 2014

What size should the dutch oven be? I’ll need to buy one. The Lodge cast iron 5 qt. dutch oven measures 10.25 in. in diameter and is 4 in. deep. Is that a good size, or should I get a 7 qt. model? I live in Mexico City at 8125 ft. I’m so happy to have found your website. Thanks!

Reply
    Chef Megan Joy - December 23, 2014

    Hi Judith, your current dutch oven sounds like it will work fine for this loaf. I hope you enjoy this recipe- it’s a good one!

    Reply
Judith McKnight - December 23, 2014

Thanks for the quick response. I’ll post my results. Have a very merry holiday season.
Judith in Mexico

Reply
Karol mclean - December 25, 2014

Can this receipe be used without Dutch oven?

Reply
    Chef Megan Joy - December 26, 2014

    Hi Karol, I don’t think so. The dutch oven is what holds the dough, which is almost like a batter, in this recipe. It also retains the heat needed to create a crusty loaf.

    Reply
Marie Langmade - December 4, 2015

So glad I found this site! Thanks for making my life easier! I’m down in South Fork, Co at 8200′ and while I grew up in Denver, it’s not at 8200′ =) my question is would this work in a cast iron skillet covered by aluminum foil? I gave my Dutch oven to my son because I’m by myself now. I’ve been looking for a good recipe for up here. And you wouldn’t have one for sourdough would you?

Reply
    Chef Megan Joy - December 4, 2015

    Hi Marie, Unfortunately I don’t think the aluminum foil will lend the same seal and heat effect as cast iron. Perhaps another oven-proof, firm fitting lid in your pots and pans will work and can be a possible alternative? I don’t have a sourdough recipe currently but will be sure to share in the future! Happy baking 🙂

    Reply
Click here to add a comment

Leave a comment:

Rate this recipe: