Dutch Oven “Artisan Sourdough” Bread

You could say, in sense, that this post is a re-blog.  It would not have been possible were it not for salient and thorough notes posted by one “JoeMcBue” in his review of a 5 quart cast iron double Dutch oven that I just bought on Amazon.

You see, I found this super easy bread recipe that promised I could produce artisan quality crusts using a 6 quart, enameled, cast iron Dutch oven.  Sounded intriguing, so I immediately sought to learn (a) what a Dutch oven was (Ha!) and (b) where I could find one that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.  (Have you shopped for these things?!?!)

It turns out Lodge Logic makes a basic line of highest quality, pre-seasoned but otherwise unembellished, cast iron cookware right here in the good old U.S. of A., at very reasonable prices.  What more could I ask for?  A review, that’s what.  To Mr. JoeMcBue,  whoever he is, all I want to say is, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you , for taking the time to detail, in a review, exactly how to produce artisan quality bread in a 5 quart cast iron double Dutch oven.  Thank you!!!’

This is by far the easiest artisan recipe I have ever found.  Five minutes to mix it up, another five minutes to knead and shape boule…and then the potential horror of handling the piping hot heavy cast iron cookware while taking it in and out of the oven…Oh well, deal with it, ma’am, right?  The result of your labors is delicious, and beautiful, not to mention great for the cook’s ego.

The following recipe is adapted from p. 594, “Almost No-Knead Bread,” Cook’s Illustrated Cook Book, sans author’s notes, with variations for “as-I-make-it,” and with huge credit to a Mr. JoeMcBue, who made me look like a pro right out of the box.

Dutch Oven “Artisan Sourdough” Bread

3 c. (15 ounces) all-purpose flour (or 1::2 whole wheat pastry flour::All Purpose flour.)

2 Tbsp raw wheat germ, optional (Since unbromated A/P flour has virtually no nutritional value.)

1.5 tsp Himalayan pink salt

¼ tsp instant yeast (yes, just 1/4 teaspoon)

¾ c. plus 2 tbsp (7 ounces) water from drinking water tap; either cool or tepid is fine. (Add and stir until dissolved, 2 T. honey if using 1c whole wheat pastry flour plus 2c all-purpose flour.)

6 Tbsp (3 ounces) dark beer, room temperature if fresh, or refrigerated if stale.

1 Tbsp white vinegar

High flash point cooking oil, such as corn oil, to coat parchment paper and boule.

Cast iron double Dutch oven with lid, 5 quart.

I. 10-20 hours in advance of baking, 11-22 hours before serving, 5 minutes:

(1) Mix dry ingredients together in 2.5 qt glass bowl.

(2) Measure out beer separately from water/vinegar/[honey] mixture and pour all liquids at once over dry ingredients.

(3) Fold together until a shaggy ball forms.

(4) Cover with glass skillet lid for 8-18 hours at room temperature.

II. 4-5 hours before serving, 5 minutes:

(5) Cover peel (or inside of Dutch oven lid, if planning to start baking on a cool lid) with square of parchment and spray with high flash point cooking oil.

(6) Knead dough 10-15 times on a floured counter. Cloak dough into a boule and place seam side down on the parchment paper.

(7) Spray boule with cooking oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

(8) Let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.

III. Bake, 40-50 minutes; cool before serving, 1-2 hours, allow 2-3 hours:

(9) At least 30 minutes before baking (45-60 minutes to thoroughly preheat a baking stone, if using, and the cast iron pot) adjust oven rack to lowest position, place Dutch oven with lid (unless proofing directly on cool lid) on rack and heat oven to 500 degrees F.

(10) When loaf is doubled in size, remove plastic wrap (duh) and make a ½ inch deep slash or “x” along top of dough.

(11) Slide parchment with dough onto hot Dutch oven lid (or place lid with dough already on it onto oven rack, if starting with cool lid), and cover with inverted, preheated Dutch oven pot.

(12) Bake for 10-20 minutes at 500 degrees F. (Covered longer means thicker, chewier crust.)

(13) Remove inverted pot-lid from baking boule, reduce temperature to 425 degrees F, and continue baking until crust is a deep golden brown and loaf interior registers 210 degrees F, for a total of 40-50 minutes–which is 20-30 minutes longer, depending on how long you baked the loaf covered.

(14) Cool loaf on wire rack about two hours before slicing and serving.

Loaf keeps at room temperature at least five days. Reheating in toaster oven after first day restores fresh flavor. Best eaten on day it is baked.

Grace notes:

(1)        Pot-lid is H.O.T. and full of steam when you take it off the boule.  Do not wear glasses or inhale deeply while removing the pot-lid unless you don’t mind warping your best lens or searing your windpipe.  If you are blind without them, get safety goggles.  Tip the pot-lid away from you when lifting it off the baking boule.

(2)        Have a place to put the heavy pot-lid when you take it out of the oven.  I’ve already destroyed one ceramic/wood composite trivet setting this pot on it… In the absence of a cast iron trivet, I set it on my stove top to cool.

(3)        Oven mitts that cover your wrists are a good idea–very thick, long oven mitts.  I doubt there is a mitt made that will not scorch from lifting a 500 degree F cast iron pot.

I have made this recipe four times, now, each time varying how I measured the flour (by scoop method, spoon method or weight), or the time the loaf was covered or the preheating time and even the oven temperature.  Each loaf was great on its own, in its own way.  Soon I will find the crust and flavor that suits my taste best.  It just goes to show, you can hardly go wrong with this recipe.

~~ Cindy F.

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