Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread

My sister is the greatest. Every year, when we get together for Christmas, she gets each of us a gift that's well-thought out. I'm always amazed.

This year, she got me two presents that were really great. One was a book, called “The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread”. Another was a tiny little bit of sourdough start. I was really excited. I've started reading the book, but I haven't gotten too deep into it, but I wanted to use this start before I went and killed it or something. I used a basic bread recipe from "The Baking Book" by LLoyd Mexon, but tweaked it a little bit. I'd read that milk can make bread a bit fluffier, and that the lactobacillus in yogurt enhances the flavor of sourdough bread, too, so I thought I'd try that as well. Anyway, here goes...

Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread with Milk, Honey and Yogurt

12” Dutch OvenEnough coals to do 400°

Step one: Waking the start
  • ½ cup warm (not hot) water
  • ½ cup flour
  • A small pinch of sourdough start from a previous batch
Step two: The Sponge

  • 1 cup sourdough start
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1-2 cups flour
  • 1 tablet of vitamin C

Step three: The Dough

  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1 Cup yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • A lot more flour

So, since I only had a little pinch of sourdough start from my sister, my first step was to make some more. Since it had been in the fridge, I didn't want to blast it with hot water, so, I just mixed the water and flour together and the stirred and blended in the pinch of start. Actually, I didn't want to use it all, because if it didn't work, I didn't want to lose the start. So, I guess I only used a half a pinch. Sue me.

This was late the night before. I set that aside in a bowl to grow. When I woke up in the morning, it was a frothy and bubbly goo.

Then, I made the sponge. That was basically just adding more water and flour. Pretty simple. I did have some extra start, which I set aside in a baggie in the fridge next to the original pinch (now a half pinch) of start that my sister gave me. I took a small tablet of vitamin C and ground it up under a spoon. That got mixed in. I've read (and seen) that a bit of vitamin C can accelerate yeast growth. Where wild yeast always takes longer to ferment, I occasionally like to encourage it.

So, with this now set aside, I pulled out the milk and the yogurt from the next set of ingredients, mixed them and set them aside to get to room temperature.

A few hours later (about 4, actually), the sponge looked like it had doubled in bulk. So, it was time to mix the dough. I started by adding a cup off flour and all the other ingredients there in step three. I stirred that all up in the bowl, and it made a pretty loose and runny dough. I put a lot of flour (about a half cup or so) onto my kitchen counter top and dumped the dough out onto it. Then, I started kneading and flouring, kneading and flouring, over and over, until the dough stopped being so sticky and started feeling like a smooth dough. Then I kneaded a bit more beyond that.

Then I shaped it into a ball, sprayed it with oil and put it aside in a bowl. It took about another 4-5 hours to raise to double the bulk.

At that point, I punched it down, and reshaped it into a ball again. I was surprised that it was still bigger than I expected. I set it in the dutch oven, and made three smooth slices in the top. I set that aside to proof. The book said to only let it proof for 20 minutes. I was a bit skeptical. In the end, it took almost forty minutes to get the coals hot enough.

I set it out on the coals. It was a quite a lot of them, to get to 400 in the cold December air. Between the cold and heating up the dutch oven, it took a little over an hour to cook. I used a quick read thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should be up to 190 or so.
When it was all done, I sliced it up and served it to our visitors. Even the lady that swore she didn't like sourdough bread recipes loved it. Of course, it didn't really have a harsh sourness. It was there, but not as edgy. It wasn't a “San Francisco” kinda sour.

Still a delicious sourdough bread, though.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Dutch Oven Christmas Party

Today was a big dutch oven day, in many ways. I was up cooking from 8:00 in the morning, until 4:00 in the afternoon, then cleaning and conditioning afterward.

Jodi's annual family Christmas party was today, and many of them asked her if I would do that citrus turkey that I'd done for Thanksgiving. I was cool to do it. Then her stepdad said he would buy the turkey and got a 22 pounder. That's OK, but it was too big for my 14" dutch oven. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. I'd looked into buying one of those Maca big deep oval ovens. They look so cool. Since they're oval, they're perfect for turkeys.

Like I said before, we can't afford it, at least not this year.

So, I got on the IDOS message board, and asked if anyone had one they would loan. Within a day, I got a response. We communicated, and made the connection to pick it up. Now, not only did I get to use a dutch oven, but I've a new friend.

Jodi's family was not only impressed with the food, but also impressed that someone would loan that out to someone they'd met online. Dutch oven people are such cool people.

So, I made three recipes I'd done before today. One was the Dutch Oven Citrus Turkey. I started that one on the coals at 8:00. It was pretty tricky keeping the right amount of heat on it, but I kept replenishing and it worked. I went through almost two big bags of kingsford in the whole day. I started out with just the stuffed turkey and the baste. The veggies I added after about three hours of cooking.

Right after I got the turkey on the coals, I started mixing the bread. I used the same recipe I've used so many times. And I used the glaze from this day. I'm not so specific with the amounts, especially the brown sugar. I just mixed it to make a thick syrup, almost a paste.

My stepdad-in-law had also bought a couple of spiral-cut hams, so I put those in the 14" dutch ovens, and did my best ham evarr soy sauce/mustard/honey glaze recipe. And it turned out even better than that time.

The family raved about them all. Well, the turkey and the ham mostly. I only heard a few comments on the bread, but I loved it a lot. It had this sweet citrusy taste, and with butter it was heavenly.

When it was all done, I got the dutch ovens cleaned and put away. Tomorrow, my friend said he'd be out in this area and will pick up his oven. It was just a wonderful day. My muscles are all sore from hefting around big iron dutch ovens full of food, but it was pretty wonderful.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Loaner Dutch Oven!

Well, Jodi, my dear wife, bragged up my Thanksgiving turkey to her family, and now I get to do it again for the whole family for Christmas. I'm pretty stoked.

But I did have a big bump in it. There's some 30 + people coming! That means a big bird. Which also means a big big dutch oven. Unfortunately, I don't have one...

So, I got on the 'net. There it was... A Maca 12” x 18” deep dutch oven. Perfect for a 20+ lb bird. Unfortunately, it's also about $170. Plus shipping. I'm sure it's worth every dime. I know I'd pay it if I had it!

But I also jumped to the IDOS forums, and I thought I'd take a shot. I asked if anyone had one to loan in the Northern Utah area. And within a day, someone (a Presbyterian minister from Layton) volunteered his! Are dutch oven people cool or what?

So, today after work, I drove up to pick it up. I only got lost two or three times, but he was very patient and helped me find his chapel. He even helped get unstuck from the ice in the parking lot after I picked up the oven. What a cool guy.

I can't wait to try it out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dutch Oven Spatzle with Onions

In my never-ending quest for dishes from all over the world to cook in my American Dutch Oven, I came across Spatzle (pronounced "Sh-PAYTS-luh"). I first had the dish cooked in the kitchen of my wife's cousin and best friend. She had spent some time working for our church in Munich, Germany. I really loved the dish, and I got it in my head to try it out. I haven't done many dishes from Northern or Central Europe (Except the rye bread). I thought it would be fun to try.

I did a bit of research, and discovered that the dish I had eaten was only one variation of millions of possibilities. Spatzle is a sort of German pasta/dumpling, and they put it with a wide variety of sauces, fillings, and other things. It's mostly served as a side dish, actually.

But, I still decided to do it mostly like I'd first encountered it. I say, "mostly", because I can never leave anything alone...

This dish is really done in two steps.

Step one: The Spatzle

8" Dutch Oven

15 + coals below

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp (or a liberal shake) of nutmeg
  • 5 eggs
  • ~1 cup water

I started up the coals, and put the 8" dutch oven on them, with about 4-5 cups of water in it. While that was heating and boiling, I mixed the batter. I mixed all the dry ingredients, then added the eggs. Finally, I started adding the water a little bit at a time. I added a little, then stirred, then added, then stirred. My wife's cousin (cousin-in-law?) had said that it needs to be like a very thick cake batter. I actually probably went a little to wet this time. I would probably used just around 3/4 cup of water. Maybe a little more.

I'd read that there were two ways to make the spatzle, one is to put the dough into a collander and press it through the holes. The other way is to have an actual spatzle press (which is the method I used). I'm not sure which one would be easier or messier. The jury's still out.

But you hold the press or the collander over the boiling water, and press the batter through the holes into the dutch oven. It'll drop into the water and sink. When the water boils and the spatzle strings start floating a couple of minutes later, let it boil for just a moment more, then fish it out with a slotted spoon. Drain it and set it aside. I'm told you can even put it in the fridge for another day.

You do it in bits. Squeeze a bit of batter into the water, let it cook, pull it out, then do it again. Repeat it until all the batter is cooked. Then you're ready for...

Step Two: The Main Dish

12" Dutch oven

8-10 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • The spatzle
  • 2-3 medium onions
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup of sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2-3 chopped green onions (including greens)
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • juice of one lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3-4 links of smoked sausage or bratwurst
  • 2 handfulls of grated mozarella

I stared off with all the coals under the dutch oven, and started sauteeing onions, the garlic, the spatzle, and the mushrooms. I Let them sautee until just a just a little brown. Then I added the lemon juice, and the salt and pepper. One last stir.

Then I arranged the sausage lengths on top (I put them all on one side because my wife doesn't like sausage much). Finally, I topped it with the mozarella.

Then I reset the oven on the coals as listed above and let it bake for about 20 minutes, enough to combine all the flavors, cook the sausage, and melt the cheese.

Then, dish it up and serve!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dutch Oven on the Web: A DOG Video

I just found this video on YouTube about a DOG. For the uninitiated, that stands for Dutch Oven Gathering. I've always wanted to attend one. I think it would be a blast. Unfortunately, they always seem to occur on days where I have family commitments, or some other thing going on. Our local group here is the Storm Mountain Chapter of the International Dutch Oven Society (IDOS). Ranes Carter has been instrumental in setting up a whole bunch of cookoffs and DOGs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Failed Experiment

Last night I took one of those frozen sourdough balls out and put it in a bowl with some hot water and flour all stirred up. I wanted to see if I'd have sourdough start by morning.

Not so much.

I checked it a couple of times before I went to work in late morning, and again when I came home this evening. Still nothin'. Bummer.

Oh, well.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread (A New Way)

Today I made sourdough bread in my dutch oven. I did it a little bit differently than I did last time. I did it based on some instructions I found in "The Baking Book" by LLoyd Mexon. Then I also started an experiment, that I'll write about in a bit.

Making the Start

Plain yogurt
Tap Water

About four or so days ago, I put a cup of plain yogurt in a plastic bowl with about a cup of flour and mixed it all up. It was pretty thick, so I added a little tap water. Every day after that, I'd scoop out about a big bit with a 1 cup scoop and replaced it with about a half cup of flour and a half cup of liquid (sometimes water, sometimes yogurt). That's called "feeding the start". For a long time, nothing happened. Nothing. I was looking for a foamy muck to form, but it just was gloppy goo.

Finally, yesterday, there was foam!

What that means is that there were yeast germs in it. They landed in the bowl from the air, and began growing and making the start active.

I was pretty excited. I remembered my experience last time, though, so I still fed it for another day. Just wanted to make sure. It was growing pretty well this morning. So, I went to the next step...

Making "The Sponge" 1 Cup of Start (the first step)
2 1/2 Cups hot tap water (at about 110 degrees)
4 Cups flour

I took a cup of the start and added it to a bowl (non-metal, 'cause I'm told that metal can kill the yeast, or at least slow it down). I mixed all the stuff in and stirred it up. I stretched some saran wrap over it and I left it to grow. Just a few hours. It got all puffy and looked like a big wet sponge. All ready for step three...

Making the Dough 2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 Tablespoon salt
3-4 more cups of flour

So, when it was ready, I uncovered it and added the sugar, the oil, the salt and a cup of flour. I mixed all that up with my trusty wooden spoon. Then I spread about a cup of flour on the countertop and turned the "pre-dough" out onto it and began kneading it. Every time it got sticky, I would sprinkle on about another quarter to half cup of flour and keep kneading. I kept going until it was pretty much not sticky any more, and felt smooth and firm. I know that's pretty meaningless, but after a while of baking bread you kinda get a feel for what bread dough should feel like.

Once it was done kneading, before I shaped the round ball to start the rise, I cut off about a handful/cupful of dough. That was for the experiment. More on that later, again.

Then, I greased the bowl, and set the dough ball in it, and greased the dough. I set that aside to rise. It took a long time, 5-6 hours. It seems sourdough usually takes more time for that.

Baking the Bread

Finally, at about 8 o'clock, It looked like it had doubled in bulk. So, I got out the coals and fired them up. By this time, it was dark and cold, so I planned on putting a lot more coals on the oven.

I spread out some more flour, and dumped out the risen dough. I kneaded it just a little bit, then shaped it into a ball and put it into a greased 12" shallow dutch oven. I slit some slashes across the top of the bread, and took that out and put it on the coals. I put about 10 coals below and 20 above. I tried to maintain a pretty hot temperature. About every 15 minutes, I rotated the oven and rotated the lid. I did replenish the coals after a while, too.

Finally, after about an hour, it was all done. And it was really great! It could've been done a bit better, maybe cooked a little longer, but with a slightly lower temperature (a bit longer) so the crust wouldn't be as hard?

The Experiement!

OK, so I read in the same book about this idea that really excited me. Since bread dough (before it's baked) has live yeast, and since yeast bugs can survive freezing, you can make little balls of dough and freeze them. Then, you can pull a ball out of the freezer, put it in a bowl with some warm water and flour, and in the morning, you have start!

At least that's what the book says. So, I'm going to try it. If it works, I think it would be a lot of fun to give off some sourdough balls as christmas gifts!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"Throw it all in the Dutch Oven" Chili

Today, Jodi had a Christmas party with her work. She helps other parents of special needs children. So, we were serving soup in a bread bowl. I made some dutch oven chili. Chili, I've discovered, is a very easy dish to make, and I've learned a few tricks.

One trick is to add cinnamon. Yummy spice, that adds some good kick, but a different kind of kick. One that you don't expect.

Another cool trick is, toward the end of the cooking, to add about a half cup of corn masa or crushed corn chips. It thickens up the broth with a rich flavor and aroma.

Other than that, it's pretty much the same as any other chili. There are a few key ingredients, and the rest of it is just what every you have on hand. Chili is one of those things that you can make with a pretty wide variety of ingredients. So, I just threw some things in.

Dutch Oven Combo Chili

12" dutch oven
20+ coals underneath

The essential ingredients

1lb ground beef or other beef
2-3 medium onions
3 cans beans with liquid
2 cans tomatoes with liquid
1/2 cup corn masa harina or crushed tortilla chips

The other things I added today (you can add whatever you like to it)

2 tbsp garlic
1-2 jalapeno peppers, cored and seeded, chopped
2-3 bell peppers
Liberal amounts of

Other things you could add

Crushed red peppers
lemon juice
Brown sugar
Barbecue sauce

This is a great dump meal, basic dutching. But you can also do it in a couple of steps. The first step would be to brown the meat and sautee the onions and garlic, and then add the other ingredients. I added it and let it simmer for about an hour and a half. Then we took it to the party and it was wonderful. Great fun.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More on the Sourdough Bread Start

I've had lots of people message me about getting sourdough bread starts. My friend Ranes offered one, as did my sister. I've had people give all kinds of advice. There are websites where you can buy sourdough start, and one where you can get it sent to you for free! Makes me wonder about shipping biological materials... But I guess yeast spores are hardly a matter of national security, now, are they?

Well, I'm gonna try to catch a sourdough bread start again. I'm going to try to do it with some plain yogurt I bought. We'll see if it works. I might order me up one from the websites, just to see what I can get...

I'll definitely keep you posted...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dutch Ovening 'Round the Web - Venison and Wild Game

I just caught this article about cooking venison and other wild game. It caught my interest because my hunter brother-in-law gave me an elk roast today. I'm excited to get it in the pot and try it out. I might even do it this weekend. But I need to do some research first.

This article says, "Like most other wild game, venison is leaner than beef or other domestic meats. The lack of internal fat can result in dry, tough dishes unless venison is cooked with two things in mind – don’t overcook venison, and use moist heat when possible." And, "Another way to incorporate moisture into cooking whole cuts of venison is to use a crock pot or Dutch oven."

Another suggestion they make is to cook venison with a lot of other moisture producing veggies like onions and peppers.

I'll keep you posted as I learn more!


Related Posts with Thumbnails