Baking Bread in a Dutch Oven! (see post below for winner of the book giveaway!)

dutch oven bread

Here is yet another way to get a fabulous crust on your bread without using any steam in the oven. I mentioned my very unsophisticated disposable lasagna pan as an option and now I present you with yet another ingenious idea. Baking bread in a Dutch oven was made popular by a Mark Bittman’s article in the New York Times  about baker Jim Lahey. He introduced home bakers to a professional style bread that didn’t require a steam injected oven.  All the iron-pot methods are based on the old European technique of baking inside a closed clay pot.  Most people don’t have one of those, but enameled cast-iron pots are readily available– and they trap all of the internal moisture in the dough and that creates the steam you need to get a crisp and shiny crust. It really is fantastic and it works perfectly with our stored doughs from the book.

As you can imagine, the only drawback to this method is that you are limited to a bread that is the shape of your Dutch oven. Luckily, Le Creuset has several shapes to choose from and I’m determined to try them all! The company even sells a special knob that can withstand the 500°F baking temperature of this method. All of these items (including the metal replacement knob) are available in Minneapolis-St. Paul at Cooks of Crocus Hill or nationally through Amazon (which offers a 7 1/4 quart pot, a 6 3/4 quart oval,  a two-quart, and others.  There are other brands, but I have not tried them!

dutchoven

Using a metal replacement knob is really essential to baking with this method, the hard plastic knobs will smoke at 500°F.  Otherwise you’re limited to the maximum temperature recommended by Le Creuset (usually 450 degrees), and the crust won’t get as crisp.

dutchoven

Preheat the pot with the lid on to 500°F for about 20 minutes.  I used a 7 1/4 quart pot to bake a 1 1/2 pound loaf of bread.

dutch oven bread

Shape your boule from any of the non-enriched doughs from the book and allow to rest on a piece of parchment paper as suggested in the recipe. I used the master recipe for this loaf and let it rise for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, because it was larger than normal. I find it easiest to get the dough into the very hot pot if I can drop it in right on the paper.

dutch oven bread

Slash the dough 1/4″ deep.

dutch oven bread

VERY carefully lift the dough and drop it, with paper and all into the preheated pot.  This can be awkward the first time you do it. I took the pot out of the oven and rested it on a cooling rack so that it was at a comfortable height to get the dough in without fear of touching the hot pot! It is very easy, but just be careful! Replace the lid and slip it back into the oven.

dutch oven bread

After 15 minutes of baking remove the lid. The dough only needs to bake in the steam for that amount of time. now it is time to get a lovely caramel color to the bread. Turn the heat down to 450°F and bake for another 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf.

dutch oven bread

Once the loaf is nicely browned, carefully remove it from the pot with a spatula.

dutch oven bread

Peel off the parchment and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

dutch oven bread

Once the bread is totally cool, cut and you can see how fantastic the crumb is! Enjoy!!!

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If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with others using one of the social sharing buttons above. Thanks, Jeff and Zoë

476 thoughts on “Baking Bread in a Dutch Oven! (see post below for winner of the book giveaway!)

  1. Hi Pam,

    That is so exciting. I have yet to try a loaf pan inside the cast iron pot.

    be careful not to over proof the bread by leaving it to rise too long in the refrigerator. Eventually the bubbles created by the yeast gas will collapse or the bread just won’t rise much in the oven.

    Thanks, Zoë

  2. This is such a fantastic idea. I tried this this weekend and my bread was extremely flat. My cast iron pot is fairly large and I decided to place it on the grill and close the lid with the cast iron lid on it. I figured that the grill can get it MUCH hotter than the oven and I really don’t need anything else heating up the house (I live in Arizona).

    I have a few questions… I didn’t used parchment paper. I oiled the pan and then placed the dough inside. So, the dutch oven didn’t heat up before it started baking. Do you think this could have made the dough become long and thin?

    Also, how much extra flour did you add to the dough when you used the master recipe? I’m afraid that the reason why it was so runny was because I didn’t add enough flour? Any help you guys could provide would be so helpful!

  3. Brooke: Best guess for all that spreading– the over-large cast-iron pot. A smaller one would contain the sideways spread.

    We do prefer this pre-heated, then putting the parchment-resting loaf in there. I don’t think that’s the explanation for the sideways spread.

    1st guess: Not enough flour, or the wrong kind. Use 6.5 cups of unbleached all-purpose and you should be successful.

  4. Bought the book, loved it. I’ve been making a loaf a doy for about three weeks now (including this method — fun!), but my DH really wants a fluffier bread. What do I need to do for my loaves to be a little fluffier? I’ll knead, use dough relaxer, bread flour…but I love this method and don’t want to give it up! (However, I can’t eat all this bread myself, and I suppose he needs to be fed at some point.)

  5. I have been placing my dough on corn meal on parchament paper on counter to rise. When ready to slide on ot stone slips off great. Less handling the dough when raised.

    Tried using my convection (optional on my oven) and it works just great. Did remember to lower the heat 25 degrees.

    Works with the cast iron as well as on the stone.

  6. Hi Hecowe,

    When you say fluffier I think of the buttermilk bread or even the brioche of challah recipes. They have a much lighter texture and crumb. Because they are enriched they have a more tender crumb, which your husband may prefer.

    If you want to try to get a lighter crumb on the master recipe, try letting it rest longer before you bake it. Up to 1 1/2 hours can often make a big difference.

    Hi Ellie,

    Great suggestion! So glad you are playing with the different methods.

    Thanks, Zoë

  7. Semolina was wonderful today. Best bread I have made so far Thank you so much.

    Using parchment to rise bread and then put on stone.

    I have been using polenta corn meal – is there a difference using corn meal?

  8. Dutch Oven cooking has been around for centuries. It has been used to bake bread over open fires and in fireplaces, which is how our ancestors, pioneers, cowboys, baked and cooked.

    The Dutch Oven traditionally had a flat lid with a raised edge so that the cook could put hot coals on the top and not have them roll off.

    Originally made from cast iron, they have also been made from graniteware (enameled steel), and cast aluminum.

    The Dutch Oven eveolved over time. They had 3 legs for support when placed on the ground or the fireplace, when stoves became more prevelant than fireplaces for cooking, the Dutch Oven lost it’s legs and became flat bottomed so it would sit easier in the oven or the stove top opening in the range.
    The flat lid also gave way for the dome shaped lid which also became oven proof glass (Pyrex) since there was no need to pile coals on the top.

    The Dutch Oven can also be used for cooking a wide range of things besides bread, like stews and complete meals. You might say that it was the crock pot of it’s day but it needed some attention.

    Cast iron was the material of choice as it held the heat better- as stoves became more efficient, the necessity for holding the heat lessened as the oven took over the work.

  9. Stuart: Thanks for the info. I had to take out your commercial references (links to products) since we can’t vouch for them. Jeff

  10. Hi,

    This is great post!

    i came across your website. and i love the topics since i am dutch oven lover. This is used for many years. It has been a high quality materials that we can trusted.

    Thanks!

  11. Maybe this will help someone,I read on a blog were a lady said she had tried all kinds of pots, pans and dishes to bake the bread in. She likes her turkey roasting pan the best. She said it’s light and you can do a bagette in it and you don’t need a pizza stone,a pan for steam and when you put(plop) the bread in the pan you don’t have to hit dead center.

  12. Jeff/Zoe:

    You mentioned the old European technique of baking inside a closed clay pot. I own a Romertopf clay baker. Can you please give me some tips on how to use this to bake my loaf instead of a dutch oven? Thanks

  13. This concept has changed the way I feel about baking bread! I used to curse almost every time because I would not have any success. I have just finished my first boule (with the master recipe) and before cutting into it, it looks like a $6 loaf! I can’t wait to try other styles in the book as well!
    For others who do not have a cloche, I used my Corningware round casserole dish fitted with a lid and it worked just fine!

  14. I wasn’t sure if I should post this at Jeff’s article about baking with a Dutch Oven on the grill or Zoe’s article about baking with a Dutch Oven in the kitchen, so I think I will do both.

    For those of you wanting to learn all there is to know about Dutch Ovens, recipes, cooking techniques (indoor, outdoor, grills), links to sources, videos, and even a charcoal calculator, check out The International Dutch Oven Society:
    http://www.idos.org

    I use a Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven, griddle, and skillet (frying pan). Their web site has some recipes, techniques, but most importantly the care and feeding of cast iron cookware, which is helpful in keeping it from getting rusty and reclaiming that rusty old Dutch Oven you got at a yard sale.
    http://www.lodgemfg.com/

    When I have some time, I will suggest that they add AB5 to their link pages.

  15. Hello,

    I have a 5 1/2 round LC dutch oven, will I be able to do a 1lb loaf in it? Do I follow the same temp & time?

    I also need to purchase a food container, will a 4qt container will able to do the job? Does it matter round/square? I don’t have too much space in the fridge. If not, will halved the recipe will fit in the 4qt container?

    Thanks

    • Hi Vivian,

      Yes, your 5 1/2 LC Dutch oven will be just perfect for a 1 pound loaf. Just make sure you have the metal replacement knob!

      4 quart container is not really big enough for the initial rise of the dough. If you had a 5 or 6 quart container you could switch the dough to a smaller vessel after it rises and collapses. You could certainly make a half batch in a 4 quart.

      Enjoy! Zoë

  16. Sorry if someone else mentioned this and I didn’t see it, but another cheap alternative to a pizza stone is an unglazed terra cotta tile (you can get one at a hardware store for about three bucks). Wash and dry the tile first, but then just use it like a stone. Sometimes glazes are not okay for food (because of lead content). An unglazed tile is all clay, nothing else can withstand the firing temps, so it’s fine for food. Alton Brown made the suggestion to use the tile on one of his shows. He also suggested using an unglazed large flower pot as a clay oven (just turn upside down to make a dome and place on tile).

  17. Okay guys, long time lurker, first time question. But first, the set up … this method replicates a wood fired brick oven beautifully. I know because I hand built my own horno, wood fired in the back yard last year in search of the elusive perfect bread.

    But I need help. Every boule I shape slumps. Let it rest for the proper amount of time on parchment paper on a peel and when it’s time to meet the heat, invariably I have a chiabta … a clumped flattened mass that spreads in all directions.

    This is about six years going and it’s making me slightly crazy. How do I get it retain it’s boule shape???

    (btw – I am perfection in following instructions and recipes. live at 5,000 feet, in a semi-arid climate)

    • Hi Jack,

      As I read your note I wondered if you lived at a high altitude, you are having all the classic problems with that type of baking. I think that reading this post may give you some good information about baking at 5,000 feet. http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=144 Let me know if you are still having trouble.

      Thanks, Zoë

  18. Thank you Zoe.

    But … it’s not just the rise, it’s that the dough slumps. Today’s was no different. Cold dough doesn’t rise at all. Even after it hits a hot stone it just squats down and bakes in a squat.

    It’s quite depressing. Not as much as the political scene, but this is a lot of years with no rise to my efforts.

    • Hi Jack,

      Is the dough rising at all in the bucket right after you mix it? If not, is it possible that your yeast is no good? It doesn’t happen often, but I have run into a few cases where the yeast is old or just a bad batch.

      Don’t fret, we will try to work this out. There are many folks baking wonderful loaves at high altitudes, so I know it can be done! We’ll just keep having you experiment until it comes out the way you like, just might take some playing with.

      Thanks, Zoë

    • Hi Jack,

      That is wonderful, don’t you just love the internet.

      I will stop by and see what you all are coming up with!

      Thanks, Zoë

  19. Thanks for the information on your web site. I have a Lodge 12 dutch oven with legs. I made a wonderful loaf of bread in it. I cooked it with hot coals on top and below. We were camping , and it went really well with the beef stew that I cooked in the other dutch oven I have.

  20. I absolutely love a hard crust, but my wife loves a soft crust. I have recently been using the dutch oven method, and really enjoy the crust it creates. Will this method work well with the Soft American-Style bread recipe on page 204? Does the butter in the bread and on the outside create the soft crust, or will the steam in the dutch oven create a hard crust despite the fat content?

    Thanks in advance,
    Brian

    • Brian: Yes it will work, but of course lower the oven temperature. I’m guessing that this will create a soft or semi-soft crust, because as you say, fat is the enemy of crispness. Let me know how it turns out. Jeff

  21. I suggested a using a terracotta tile, but my latest experiement was to use a large ceramic lidded casserole. So far it’s my favorite bread baker– the same effect as using the dutch oven (no need for the water bath), but no knob to worry about and no concern about damaging the enamel by heating up the pot when empty. The lid of the casserole is also easier to manipulate, even with oven mitts on.

  22. Last week I used this method for a crusty white bread and it turned out fantastic. Now my husband wants me to try it with your pumpernickel recipe. Do I still bake for 15 minutes at 500 and then reduce to 450, even though the recipe is to bake it at 400.

    • Hi Sheryl,

      Because of the additional sugars in the pumpernickel recipe you may want to reduce the heat. Start with it at 450 and then reduce to 400. That should do you well. Just keep an eye on it after you remove the lid to make sure it isn’t getting too dark, which is tricky with such a dark loaf.

      Enjoy, Zoë

  23. I’ve used both the refrigerated dough method and Jim Lahy’s method, using covered 3 qt calphalon pan w/glass lid (good to 500 deg). Using preheated pot and oven to 450 I consistently get an overbrowned bottom of the bread which I then have to saw off using bread knife after bread is cooled. How can I avoid the overbrowned (almost burnt) bottom of my artisan bread? BTW love the methods and the bread and thanks to all that dreamt this stuff up. Haven’t bought bakery or grocery bread in last year!

    • Hi TxTufTif,

      I heard this from a reader who was doing this method on her grill over the summer and was having a hard time regulating the heat. First make sure the oven is running at the right temperature with an oven thermometer. She ended up making a “pillow” of tin foil that she laid down on the bottom of the pot to cushion or insulate the bottom of the bread.

      I hope this helps and happy baking!

      Zoë

  24. I’ll try that method and let you know how that works. Saw on the Mark Bittman no knead bread website that he complained of the same problem and suggested placing one of those silicone oven pot holders (not a mitt) in oven…but didn’t say where. I had assumed that he meant on the oven rack with the pot on top, but I was sure the silicone oven potholder would just melt away at 450 deg so didn’t try it. Didn’t think of actually putting the silicone oven pot holder (not a mitt) into the interior of the pot. Thanks for jogging my thinking processes and I’ll try both methods and let you know what works.

    Thanks for the reply to my question. By the way I made the cinnamon rolls (without the sticky part) from your book and they are awsome….too awsome….so make them infrequently, but did notice how much easier the dough was to handle and form.

  25. PS Zoe: I do have an oven thermometer in the oven as mine is wildly inaccurate and always always check it to make sure I’m on temperature target. Just a wonderful device.

  26. TxTftx: I’m with you– that silicone pad will do poorly way BELOW 500 degrees, or even 450. Don’t do it— I don’t think I’d put it inside the pot either. Jeff

    • Hi Lynn,

      The Gluten-Free Crusty Boule from the gluten-free chapter of our newest book Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day would be wonderful baked in a Dutch oven.

      Thanks, Zoë

  27. I am confused about the refrigerator rise. It makes sence with the 1st loaf but all the others…the bread will already have been in the fridge for days. How can a cold rise do anything?? And also do you let the loaf rest out on the counter first and then put it in the fridge for the cold rise or do you not bother with a counter rest and just form the dough and put it in the fridge for the cold rise?? Thanks!

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Once you form the loaf you have to let it rise. You can either do this on the counter or you can loosely cover it and let it rise for several hours in the refrigerator. The rise on the counter happens in about 40+ minutes, but the refrigerator rise happens much slower (about 8 hours). I usually pull my loaf out of the refrigerator and just let it sit at room temperature until the oven preheats.

      I hope that helps?

      Zoë

  28. I just bought your book, and am very new to bread baking. I am excited to try your method to bake bread. I have a very small refrigerator (condo size) and would not have the room to leave the dough in the refrigerator until I can bake all the dough. Is it possible to freeze the dough after it rises for the first 2 hours? Would I divide the dough into the grapefruit sized amounts and place them into ziplock freezer bags to freeze. If I can do this, I plan on thawing them in the refrigerator overnight before letting them rest on the countertop before baking. Let me know if I’m thinking through this correctly.

    Thanks!

    Jill

    • Hi Jill,

      That is exactly what we recommend. The dough will not have time to develop any sour dough like character, but if you leave it in the packet over night it may have more flavor. Give it a try and see what you think.

      Thanks, Zoë

  29. I made a batch of pumpernickel, and I prefer it sweeter. Can I add sugar, honey or more molasses without compromising the recipe? I’m looking for that sweet “restaurant” bread taste.

    • Hi Stephanie,

      You may prefer the sweetness that sugar or honey adds. Molasses is not as intensely sweet as the others. If you add more than a couple of tablespoons of honey your dough may start to get soft.

      Enjoy, Zoë

  30. Hi,
    Being German, I have a beautiful Roemertopf glazed clay pot (Bottom is glazed so food doesn’t stick, lid is not glazed and you’re supposed to soak it in water before use to create a perfect steam environment). I usually use that for making roasts. It makes the most wonderful moist mouth-watering roasts and pan-juice gravy).
    I would love to use that for baking bread. Unfortunately, you’re not meant to put it in a pre-heated oven. I wonder whether it would be ok to place it in a cold oven and let the empty pot come up to temperature gradually. I suppose I’ma abit worried it might crack when putting a room temperature loaf of bread in it… Do you have any experience with these types of pots?
    Cheers, Alex

    • Alex: Check out my post on this subject, at http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=566. I used the Sassafras brand clay pot, but should work about the same. I don’t put it into a pre-heated oven; rather, I put it in a cold oven and pre-heat for 30 minutes. Then the dough is dropped in. Haven’t had a cracking problem but none of these stonewear items last forever… Jeff

  31. If I read the posts correctly, I saw that some people are using Corningware (casseroles) instead of a dutch oven. I would love to be able to try this since I have their French White set, but I have a few questions.
    Do you need to preheat the corningware like you do the dutch oven?
    Do I use parchment in the bottom or must it be oiled?
    Can I let the dough rise right inside the Corningware?
    I am really enjoying your books-I just received the 2nd one for Christmas and I am looking forward to trying out some of the whole wheat recipes. Thanks!

    • Chrissy: Whatever you use, it should be hot in order to get the great oven spring we see with the closed-pot method. Check with the manufacturer to be sure that you can do this pre-heat with an empty pot. Wouldn’t want it cracking. Parchment is great, sometimes I use a thick layer of course whole-grain flour instead. I never oil it, though that might be just as good, especially w/corningwear. You really can’t do an overnight rise right in the baking vessel because of the need to pre-heat.

      You’ll find that the method is forgiving. If something sticks to a pot, just leave it in there for about 10 minutes after baking and it basically “steams” itself out. Jeff

  32. Thanks Jeff. I sent an email off to Corningware to see what they have to say. I remembered. too, that I have some small clay pots with a glazed interior that are intended to bake muffins-can I use them to make mini loaves do you think?
    Thanks to you and Zoe for answering all the questions here. As a new bread baker, I’m not all that comfortable with just leaping into new techniques without a bit of guidance.

  33. I love baking your bread in my dutch oven but the other day I burned my wrist dropping my loaf in the pot, and was wondering if i could possibly just place my dough on my baking stone and just turn the bottom part of my dutch oven upside down and place that over the loaf. Do you think this will damage my stone?

    I’m really just looking for a way to do this or something similar without having to buy anything, since I’m really poor right now. :) Maybe I should just another ove-glove.

    • Hi Jenny,

      I’m sorry to hear that you burned yourself, definitely a potential hazard to this method. The problem with covering your loaf with the cold pot is that it will take a log while for it to heat up and the bread will not get that initial blast of heat that it needs. You are better off using one of these very thin aluminum pans that heats up almost instantly. http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=510

      Hope that works for you? Thanks, Zoë

  34. I thought I was baking bread for more than a decade but after my very first batch I realized I was WRONG!!! This simple loaf stopped my family in their tracks! AWESOME!!! And sooooo easy!!!!!

  35. My daughter gave me your book for Christmas and I love it. Being Southern, my favorite bread so far is the Broa – we do love our cornbread. BTW, true southern cornbread is not sweet at all. I never put sugar in it (horrors)!

    Last night, I tried your boule in my cast iron dutch oven and it was delicious! I didn’t get the large holes since my dough was a bit dry, but the no matter – the taste was wonderful. My dough was 5 days old and had a wonderful sour dough flavor. I’ve also made your brioche as cinnamon rolls and my family loves them. I think I will try the rest of the boule dough as crusty dinner rolls.

    • Hi Ellen,

      My step-mother is from Alabama and she makes her cornbread without sugar as well. So tasty!

      Enjoy all the bread! Zoë

  36. Jeff,

    I’m not sure why that description says “phenolic lid safe to only 400,” because I asked the Le Creuset store (they have a factory store close by here) and they said the lid and handles are enamelled cast iron, just like the others. And if you look at the picture, you can see that there is no knob on it at all. So I have to think that that lingo must be the generic Le Creuset lingo that they put on all of their pots.

    Mostly, I was hoping for a two-fer, if I’m going to spend $250-$300, I thought it would be nice to get one that I could use for the bread, as well as braising, etc. And some folks rave about the little dimples on the inside of the top helping to promote condensation, a tight lid maintaining the steam, etc., for more successful braising. And the indented lid is so you can put ice cubes on top to get more condensation when you are braising, which you would omit for the bread baking. I thought that maybe those dimples would be good for braising, but didn’t know if they would be harmful for baking bread? The Staub cocotte has them, too. In the absence of added liquids, would they just be ignored, or would the bread steam condense there and cause a problem?

    Mostly, I was just trying to buy one big pot which will be a storage headache, as well as expensive, but that would at least serve two purposes.

    Thanks for your help!

    • Linda: Ah, now I see. I think the dimples shouldn’t make much difference, should be fine. Same for the issue with the lid, sounds fine. Hopefully you can look at this before buying it sight unseen? But basically, it should work just fine. Jeff

  37. baked my first whole grain loaf last night. turned out beautifully, but my stone that i’ve baked w/ for years broke in 3 places!!
    Help! What did i do wrong?? i don’t want to make the same mistake if i get a new stone.
    i’m thinking that the 1 cup of water wasn’t enough because it was all gone when the baking was done??
    any suggestions are appreciated! thank you!!

    • Lisa: We’ve found that stones do not last forever, though my first one lasted 11 years of frequent baking. It seems clear that the 1/2-inch thick ones are very durable, and the 1/4-inch thick stones are much less so. It’s nothing you did wrong.

      Incidentally, you can usually use the broken stone pieces to make breads, all depends on how the crack is shaped and what the resultant pieces look like.

      Alternatives to these stones include the newer cast-iron “stones,” or even just a cast-iron skillet, which we’ve found work quite nicely. Or a Dutch Oven http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=552 or a cloche http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=566

      My guess is the cloches, being ceramic, are eventually going to break like the stones. Iron, certainly not. Jeff

  38. When I first came upon this site I had a little enamal cast iron pot I had purchased from Costco (KItchen Aid) It worked and I then went hunting something larger, and found a 5 quart oval and round at a local store for pennies compared to what the other pot costs and it works wonders!!!! And the handles on both pots are metal, not plastic so I don’t have to worry!

  39. That’s the great thing!!! I got enameled for under 50 bucks!!! (Food network brand) with a handle that is attached! I would love the other… but it’s not going to happen soon!

  40. Hi Zoe and Jeff, I have a 5.5 qt dutch oven. Is that too small for your recipe? I’ll move up in size if that seems best.

    Thanks for the great ideas!
    Darin

    • Hi Darin,

      My philosophy is that you can never have too many Dutch ovens, of all sizes! ;) Having said that, your 5.5qt is absolutely perfect for baking the bread! I have one that size and use it all the time.

      Enjoy! Zoë

  41. I’ve made the olive oil dough for pizza tonight. My onions are caramalized and my cheese is shredded…is there any reason I can’t put parchment paper under my pizza instead of cornmeal that smokes at high temps? I use the parchment paper all the time with the dutch oven method.

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