Friday, October 28, 2011

Dutch Oven Bread by Izzy.... (w/my help)

I was contacted via email by someone named Izzy Woods. She offered to write a post on my behalf, regarding my cooking/baking favorites, and I welcomed her to do so.

If you'd like to talk to her about a "guest post" on your blog, let me know, and I'll put you in touch with her.

I suggested Dutch Oven Bread, because of it's unique effect on baked breads, and she did a wonderful job.

She obviously studied it, and enhanced my post on the same subject: Merlin Menu Dutch Oven Bread

By the way, she did this for free, she only asked she get to display a furniture link, so if you're looking for some furniture, give it a click.


Bread with a Difference
Home-made bread: there really is nothing quite like it. The smell of it wafting out the kitchen can make even the dullest rented flat feel like home. There is something earthy about baking bread, something that appeals to the simplest of instincts: those of home, family and food. Many home bakers constantly experiment in search of the perfect bread recipe, experimenting with different grains, seeds and flours, often with impressive results. Unfortunately, the cooking stage can sometimes let down the perfect bread recipe. Modern domestic ovens just aren’t made for bread-baking, as moisture is vented out of them, producing a dry heat which tends to lead to dry bread. A wetter, steamier oven will produce moist, soft loaves with deliciously crusty outsides: the holy grail of bread-making.

Traditionally, bread was baked in wood-fired ovens very similar to the pizza ovens seen in most modern Italian restaurants. However, it’s not easy to build this kind of oven in the average domestic kitchen! The solution is to use a Dutch oven: a large cast iron cooking pot. Dutch ovens retain moisture, so the steam stays in the pot while the bread is cooking. A Dutch oven is a cheap, easy way to transform your bread baking.

Dutch ovens cook bread in a very similar way to professional baking ovens used by commercial bakers. Those ovens use steam injection to keep the bread moist as it cooks. A Dutch oven does the same thing, without the need for expensive equipment. It gets and stays very hot: cast iron is a great heat absorber. The tight-fitting lid keeps steam in the pot, preventing drying, with fantastic results.

Making bread in a Dutch oven is very easy, not just because of the cooking method, but the recipe needed. Dough for bread that is to be cooked in a Dutch oven doesn’t need to be kneaded. It can simply be left to rise, shaped, and cooked. This makes Dutch oven baking perfect for beginner bakers: if you’ve been scared off in the past by the seemingly complicated bread-making process, use a Dutch oven.

Cooking bread in a Dutch oven seems to bring bread-making back to its origins. Many of us are reluctant to try making bread, believing it to be a complicated process, almost akin to alchemy. It really isn’t, but it’s not hard to see why so many have that view. Look at a bread recipe, and it will often appear long and difficult. However, people have been baking bread all over the world for thousands of years. It is a fundamental part of our culture, referenced in religion and common phraseology. The concept of ‘breaking bread’ is a highly powerful one. The breaking of the loaf and sharing of it at the table is a representation of community and family. ‘Bread’ in slang can mean, simply, ‘food’. The loaf of bread in the kitchen is almost part of the furniture, central to how and what we eat.

When you think of bread in these kinds of terms, what do you think of? It’s probably not a sliced supermarket loaf. It’s more likely to be exactly the kind of bread you can make in a Dutch oven, with very little effort. Dutch oven loaves both look and taste wonderful. The inside (or ‘crumb’) is soft, melting in the mouth. The crust is thick, crispy and full of flavour. Think about that dipped in some warming soup, matched with tangy cheese, or simply slathered in creamy butter. These are simple pleasures indeed; but very tasty ones. This is the kind of food that we dream of when we dream of home.

Perhaps you’ve struggled for months trying to make the perfect loaf, or perhaps you’ve thought it wasn’t worth trying. Dutch oven baking is the answer. It does not have to stop at basic bread either. You could try flavouring with herbs and seeds, for example, or making rolls rather than loaves. You can also try other kinds of baking in a Dutch oven, including biscuits and pastries. The Dutch oven is one of those most rare and useful kitchen utensils: something that is both highly versatile and very  easy to use. So what are you waiting for? Get baking!


Kat said...

Looks so delicious. I have never made bread using a Dutch oven. Nice article. Have a great weekend.

Chef Tess said...

Dutch oven is the best! I baked mine outside with a dutch oven in a fire pit for the first time a couple of weeks ago and it was amazing! Xoxo!

Linda said...

Just found this blog! Have to try this. Thanks!

grannie said...

What size dutch oven should be used. I have a large (7 qt) one and when I baked my bread in it the bread looked like foccaca, flat and not crispy at all. grannie

The Merlin Menu said...

Allright Grannie, I think I used a 5 quart, but no problem. Double the recipe and share with friends.... I say.

And that being said, I bet the Foccacia style loaf was good, or am I wrong?

And if I am, maybe the yeast didn't do it's job. Just sayin'....

Good Baking.