Dutch Oven Bread

I'm not the greatest cook (read: worst cook everrrrr) but I do love baking. One of my very favorite things to bake is bread. Homemade bread has been around in my family for as long as I can remember. I barely knew what pre-packaged white bread was until high school. Both my mom and my dad enjoyed making it every week, and I loved eating it.

These days, I enjoy making my own. The gentle rhythm of kneading dough is so cathartic, and is there anything more delicious than the smell of bread straight out of the oven? Heaven. I could live on bread alone, people, I'm telling you. I would be fat and happy and smell faintly of flour. Mmmmm.

Despite my skill at making a mean loaf of homemade bread, I had never before heard of making bread in a dutch oven. I mean, WHAT? Bread is made in bread pans! How the hell does a dutch oven come into play, here?

I was so intrigued with the idea, that I ran out and bought me a $50 dutch oven from IKEA and immediately googled a recipe (yes, I buy $50 worth of cookware on a whim. This is how much I love bread, people.) Turns out, this tactic is like MAGIC. I'm serious. I was completely skeptical the entire time. After all, I have years of bread baking experience in my pocket and this just threw it all out the window. AND, it's probably the easiest recipe in the world. Prepare to be amazed.

{dutch oven bread}


3 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cups water
5 qt dutch oven with lid

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.

At this point, you can keep going to make regular yeast bread, or you can add some fun ingredients and make the bread kick-ass. I put in cranberries and lemon zest, since that's what I had on hand at the time. (In case you are curious, this is a brilliant combination. I think orange zest would also be awesome.)

Add water and mix until dough becomes sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours. I let mine sit overnight. It will rise by morning:

The next day, heat oven to 450 degrees. Place your dutch oven (or cast iron pot of some kind, with a lid) into the preheated oven and heat up the pot for 30 minutes. While it is heating, knead dough on a floured surface and form into a ball. It will be crazy sticky, so make sure you have enough flour on the counter/ your hands. Let the dough-ball sit under the plastic wrap until the dutch oven is finished heating.

Remove your cast iron pot from oven (carefully) and drop in your dough ball. Cover the cast iron pot with lid and return it to the oven for 30 minutes. (My oven is crazy hot, so I lowered the temp a bit and only baked it for 20 minutes). After 20-30 minutes, remove dutch oven lid and bake an additional 15 minutes or so.

After you drop your bread dough into the pot and wait for it to bake, you're totally going to be thinking: there's no way in hell this will be bread. I mean, I know dough forms bread in a bread pan in 30 minutes, but usually it has spent all night rising to an appropriate bread shape and size, and when it bakes, it forms a nice, rounded golden crust on top. Plus, you can watch its progress through your oven door.

With the dutch oven, you can't see crap. You drop this tiny, sticky bundle of unrisen dough into a giant pot, cover it up, and scoff a little that it will create anything close to resembling bread in that time.

And then you pull the lid off.... and BAM! MAGIC DOUGH! It became BREAD! I mean, I bake a lot, but I still couldn't get over this one. I figured if there was any way to ruin the simplest recipe in the world, I would have found a way to do it. But I didn't! It made a perfect, round, artisan crispy loaf, and it was amazing.

Best $50 loaf of bread I ever made. :)