The smell of bread baking is enough to draw you into a shop when you’re walking by. Now, you can bring that magic into your own kitchen with the right bread recipe and the right equipment.
Bread can seem intimidating, but when you start with a dutch oven, it makes the process a whole lot easier. Having the right dutch oven facilitates your bread baking and eliminates the complicated steaming process many people use to get real bread oven results from their home stove.
If you aren’t sure why or how to bake bread in a dutch oven, I’ve got you covered. I’ve got my absolute favorite dutch ovens for this sort of baking, and I’ve answered some questions you may have about what to expect once you’ve chosen your perfect piece. Let’s take a look.
Benefits of Using a Dutch Oven for Baking Bread
Your dutch oven offers a lot for your bread baking hobby. You could use an electric bread maker (which gives you dense bread. Not always a good thing.) or you could use a plain pan, which dries bread out. A dutch oven gets you closer to a real bread oven for the following reasons.
- Moisture – A dutch oven helps seal in critical moisture during the baking process so that your bread stays soft on the inside and develops the right kind of crust. Without this, you’re left with a burned loaf or something crusty all the way through. You can get this moisture without having to steam your oven.
- Heat – Bread ovens have intense and even heat. Cast iron builds up heat and holds it evenly, so there’s less fluctuation as your oven reheats itself over the baking process. You get fewer scorch marks and better cook time.
- Loaf volume – That moisture we talked about also allows your bread to get bigger. Without continual moisture, the outside of the loaf develops a hard shell which prevents expansion. You get a denser, less fluffy bread.
- Beautiful crust – If you want that deeply shiny, crunchy golden crust, you’re going to need a dutch oven. It’s one of the few tools that will allow you to mimic the environment of a steamed bread oven without resorting to all kinds of magic to make it happen.
Types of Dutch oven for baking bread
You’ve got two types of dutch ovens you could choose from: enameled vs bare cast iron Cookware. Both offer great bread baking, but they’ll need a well-fitting lid and use complete cast iron to keep the heat high and even.
Bare Cast Iron
Without an enamel, you have more seasoning potential as you bake your bread. Bare cast iron takes on the flavor profiles of things that were cooked before, so you could potentially have a complex flavor for your bread baking.
You’ll need to perform a seasoning process to make the surface non-stick, however. If you’re new to the world of bread baking and cast iron, the seasoning process could be inconvenient. Without it, you’ll have a lot of stuck loaves and heartbreak.
Enameled Cast Iron
Coated cast iron provides a smoother, non-stick surface for your bread, but you might miss some of the smoky, complex flavors of bare cast iron. Enamel is easy to clean and doesn’t require a complicated seasoning process, however, so it’s excellent for beginners.
Bread tends to be smoother and shinier in enameled cast iron because of the way moisture collects. Also, if you want ultra-consistent crust flavors that don’t absorb any seasoning from other baking processes, this is the way to go.
Best Dutch Oven for Baking Bread
When it comes to the best Dutch ovens in the market, Staub and Le Creuset are two of the best providers out there. You cannot go wrong with any of these dutch ovens. They’re consistent, easy to use, and create that wonderful blend of crisp and soft everyone craves in homemade bread.
Le Creuset Signature
- 45% larger handles that provide a sure grip, even with oven mitts. Heat Source-Ceramic Hob, Electric Hob, Gas Hob, Grill, Oven safe,...
- The superior heat distribution and retention of le creuset enameled cast iron
- An advanced sand-colored interior enamel with even more resistance to wear
Le Creuset is an absolute legend in the dutch oven world with a wide range of colors and an excellent reputation for even cooking. This option is a round, dutch oven with a five and a half quart cooking capacity.
The light interior is excellent for cooking bread because you’ll get a lower exterior temperature naturally and you can check the bread’s color without having to use a light. Lids on the signature series fit a little tighter, holding in moisture for a bigger loaf size and shinier crust.
The handles are large and wide for stability, getting the oven in and out. Le Creuset cast iron is also one of the lightest options you have, so while it’s still going to be heavy, you will save a pound or two at least.
The composite knob can handle temperatures up to 500 degrees, and the light bottom can also help reduce scorch with temperatures that high. It comes in a range of colors and is microwave and dishwasher safe.
Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- 6-quart Dutch oven made of cast iron with chip-resistant porcelain-enamel finish
- Cast-iron loop side handles for a safe, secure grip when transporting
- Cover with handle traps in heat, moisture, and nutrients
A great budget alternative to Le Creuset is Lodge enameled cast iron. It uses the same enamel process to create a smooth, nonstick surface great for cooking bread and a host of other things. It uses a light-colored interior to help you keep track of your bread’s baking process, and handles are wide enough to make carrying things more comfortable.
Lodge’s enamel isn’t quite as long-lasting as Le Creuset enamel, so be careful if you’re using metal utensils or changing temperature from one extreme to another. Also, the lid doesn’t fit quite as tightly so you should always check the moistness of your bread throughout the baking process.
The good news is metal knobs come standard on the lid, so you won’t have to worry about cooking temperatures. Also, they look a little better than the composite Le Creuset knobs. It’s a good budget alternative, however, when you need bread but doesn’t quite have the investment of Le Creuset in your pocket.
Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- 5 Quart Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven. A classic cooker that doesn't quit, the Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven is a classic that's great for...
- SEASONED COOKWARE. A good seasoning makes all the difference. Lodge seasons its cookware with 100% vegetable oil; no synthetic coatings or...
- MADE IN THE USA. Lodge has been making cast iron cookware in South Pittsburg, Tennessee (pop. 3,300) since 1896. With over 120 years of...
Bare cast iron has a beautiful seasoning profile. This one comes with a preseasoned surface, so you don’t have to worry as much about sticking. I recommend still following through with a light seasoning process, but this does take the pressure off.
It’s a five-quart option with no enamel, and the cast iron can hold in heat. The lid features an integrated handle for stability, and it fits pretty well without sealing. You might lose a little moisture from the sides, so keep an eye on your bread.
The side handles are also integrated into the body of the crock, but they aren’t very big. You may have trouble stabilizing the crock if you’ve got bigger hands or bulky oven mitts. However, the price is excellent to get you started with cast iron dutch ovens, and the shape can tackle multiple cooking needs, not just bread.
- What size dutch oven should I use for bread? – A five-quart dutch oven gives you plenty of space to allow your loaves to rise without leaving too much space around the crock. Without heat on all sides, your loaf may end up uneven, but too small and you’ll be picking bread off the sides of your oven. Five quarts is a good starter size.
- Which is better: bare or enamel? – If you’re a seasoning pro, you may want to experiment with the unique flavor profile of your bare dutch oven. Also, if you’re baking bread on a fire outdoors, the darker bare coloring could help you maintain the high heat you need. If you’re cooking in an oven and don’t have much experience with cast iron (or no patience for cleaning) go with enamel.
- How do I choose the right one? – Your size and type of dutch oven will depend a lot on your cooking habits and your budget. If you bake tiny loaves for one person, you might be able to go down a size. If you have a wider budget, you may want an enameled Le Creuset with a better fitting top. The best option is to go around five quarts and let your budget help you decide.
- How do I keep the bottom of the loaf from burning? – A burned bottom ruins an otherwise beautiful loaf of bread. Here are a few tricks to prevent that from happening.
- Sometimes it’s your environment or stove. Adjust your preheat and baking times. Start by reducing the preheat time down by fifteen degrees and do the same with cook times. Adjust down by 15 degrees until you find your perfect baking temperature.
- Try a physical barrier. If you need the higher temperatures, try putting a pan or baking stone directly below your dutch oven. Take your first rack and place it on the lowest bar of your stove and put your baking sheet there. Move the second rack one or two rungs above it to hold your dutch oven.
- Put cornmeal or wheat bran in the dutch oven. Both of these materials can help create insulation inside your dutch oven to ease the effects of heat. Sprinkle a generous amount of either material into the pan after it’s preheated and place your dough into the pan as usual. You can also set the dough onto parchment paper if you don’t want cornmeal or wheat bran on the bottom of your loaf.
How to Bake Bread in Your Dutch Oven
And now the final piece – the baking! You’ve got your dutch oven, and I’ve got a bread recipe for you below. If this is your first time baking bread like this (or at all), know that it may take time to perfect the process for your individual oven and environment. If you run into a snag, adjust for next time. Practice is half the fun!
No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread
- 4 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1tsp Active Dry Yeast (or one packet)
- 1 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- 2 cups warm water
- Put your hand into your warm water and make sure it feels just hot enough to stay comfortable. Put your yeast into the water and leave it until you see light foam – about five minutes.
- Mix the flour and salt by hand. Create a small well in the middle and slowly pour the water and yeast mixture into the well.
- Wet your hands, so the mixture doesn’t stick and begin to mix the water and flour. As it mixes, the dough should start to pull away from the sides of the bowl without sticking. Add small bits of flour until this happens if it doesn’t immediately.
- Once mixed, cover it and allow it to rise for one and a half to two hours. It should double in size.
- Uncover the dough and poke a few holes or gently punch down the dough so that it deflates. Fold the dough again, gently working from the outside to the center a few times and leave it to rise again for the same amount of time.
- When the dough is double in size again, it’s ready to bake. Flour a flat surface and gently work the dough into a ball, tucking the sides underneath for a final rounded top. Prep the bowl with a light coating of olive oil and flour, so the dough doesn’t stick. Place the dough back into the bowl to rise for a final hour while preheating the dutch oven.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and place your dutch oven inside. Allow it to heat for one hour while the dough rises.
- Carefully remove the dutch oven after one hour and place the dough ball inside. The dutch oven can cause severe burns, so be very careful at this stage. If your dutch oven is bare cast iron, use parchment paper on the bottom.
- Replace the lid and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the cover after that time and bake for a final 15 minutes to help finish the crust.
- When it’s finished baking, remove the dutch oven and carefully tilt the bread out of the crock. Allow the bread to cool for ten minutes before cutting and allow the dutch oven to cool completely before washing.
Adjust temperatures or add cornmeal or a baking sheet to help adjust baking finishes and prevent the bottom from scorching. Practice until you get it just right!
Last update on 2021-05-15 / This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API