Typically I do my bread making while at the cabin. However, this spring break I decided to do some bread baking at home. And I had a significant breakthrough!
I made a beautiful loaf of bread with firm, and yet chewy crust. The interior of the loaf had a perfect texture. Dense enough to please me and yet lots of bubbles indicating that the yeast had done its gassy job.
This was my first loaf that I would call a 100% success. So the question is, what did I do differently this time?
Normally, I cook my bread in a cast iron skillet. About 20 minutes before I’m ready to bake, I put the cast iron pan in the oven as the oven is pre-heating to 450°. Once the oven is up to temperature, the pan is also sizzling hot. I take the pan out of the oven, plop the dough into the hot pan and then back into the oven for 30 minutes.
This time, under the advice of my Full Nomad friend Steff, I used a cast iron Dutch oven – with a lid! I did the same routine – pre-heated the oven, pre-heated the Dutch oven, plopped the dough into the Dutch oven – but then – I put a lid on the cast iron pot of dough before putting it back in the oven! Game changer!
After 30 minutes I took the lid off the Dutch oven and let the bread cook, uncovered for another 10 minutes.
The result – my first perfect (to me) loaf of bread.
However, I do need to back up a bit – how do I get to the point where I can plop the dough into the Dutch oven? Let’s look at that.
I actually start the day before I’m ready to bake. I thoroughly mix the dry ingredients together and then add the water. I stir in the water using a stiff rubber spatula (or as some call it, a rubber scraper) until the dough is a perfect ball of dough that isn’t sticky on the outside. If it is sticky, I add a dusting more flour and mix that into it.
And then I leave the ball of dough, in the stainless steel mixing bowl sitting on top of the fridge overnight. Or until I have time to bake it!
Every few hours I take the rubber spatula and stir the dough. I push it down and “knead” it to make the gluten in the dough work and stretch. In the morning, after sitting all night the dough is often puffed right up the top of the mixing bowl. My kids love that part of the process. I usually leave the dough to “work” for 24 hours.
About half an hour, or 20 minutes before baking time, I stir the dough one last time, fold it over on itself, and then roll it onto a piece of parchment paper.
When the oven is up temperature and the cast iron pan or Dutch oven is up to temperature, I lower the dough, on the parchment paper, into the Dutch oven.
As I said above, I let it cook with the lid on for 30 minutes. Then I took the lid off and let it cook for another 10 minutes. I had an absolutely lovely loaf of bread.
- 3 cups of flour (I use 2 cups unbleached white, and one cup whole wheat flour)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon of yeast.
- 1 3/4 cups of water.