Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Good Dutch Oven Sandwich Bread

OK, so I've done sourdoughs and ryes and all kinds of "hearth breads", whatever that means... But the crusts are tough (or should I say, "crusty"), and the crumb is heavy. Now that's not bad when you want a really hearty chunk of bread for a meat-based sandwich. But I also want to learn how to make something light. I want something I can make a PBJ on and have my kids eagerly eat it.

I've learned a lot baking breads these last few months (heck, the whole last year). So, I though I'd give an old recipe a try. It's the one that my wife usually makes.

Jodi's Bread in the Dutch Oven

12” Dutch Oven

17 coals above, 8 below for 350 degrees (in normal weather, more in cold)

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 3/4 cup honey

  • 1 egg
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cups milk (mixed from powder)
  • 2 Tblsp oil
  • 4-5 cups flour, with probably about cup to be added during kneading
  • An egg to coat the top

I started by activating the yeast. I mixed the hot water and the honey (that cooled the water significantly), then added the yeast.

While it was proving and frothing, I gathered up all the other ingredients.

Then I just mixed all the rest of the ingredients in. One of the big things I've learned about breadmaking is to make sure that I knead it enough. This recipe passed the windowpane test quickly, in only about 10 minutes of keading. I've notice that when I've kneaded enough the dough is stiffer, also.

Then I put it in the oiled bowl, and sprayed it with oil, and finally covered it with plastic wrap.

It rose up pretty nicely. I gave it a little over an hour.

When that was done, I punched it down and divided it into four doughballs, like loaves, and set them in the Dutch Oven to proof.

This is where it almost went south. After about a half hour of proofing, I went out to light up some coals. I don't know what was wrong. Maybe the coals were damp, but I could NOT get coals to light up and burn hot. After trying for literally an hour, I put what few coals I had lit onto the Dutch Oven lid to preheat it. That's another very important thing I've learned about dutch oven breadmaking.

In the meantime, I lit up another batch of coals. That was slow lighting, too. Finally, I got some coals lit, and I put them under the Dutch Oven and a few more on the lid, but I could tell it wasn't hot enough. By that time the bread had risen to above the lid line. I kinda punched it down a little with a fork before putting on the hot lid.

I kept working on the coals, and after lighting more and a lot of fanning, I got some glow goin' on. It finally did cook, but the top was really brown. Not quite black, but really close. I brought it in to cool. I don't know if it's a good idea or not, but I let it cool in the Dutch Oven. I think the oven cooks it a little bit more while it's all cooling down.

When it was all done, and I pulled it out, the crumb inside was cooked all the way through, and it was nice and soft, not doughy at all. The crust was dark, but still soft to my bite. In spite of all the troubles, I had baked my first truly successful sandwich loaf!

Now, where's the butter and honey?


  1. Hi Mark! The bread sounds great. I don't know how well this will translate to Dutch oven, but here are a few things I do if I want a softer sandwich loaf. First, cut down on the flour a bit. Just do enough to barely keep it from sticking. Also, when you turn out the risen dough, don't manhandle it too much. Shaping the loaves (gently) usually deflates it just enough. Last, skip the egg wash for the top, and rub on a little bit of butter or olive oil as soon as it comes out of the oven. That's a trick I learned from Mom. Happy baking!

    Your loving sister

  2. I wondered about the "degassing" handling. Some books say to be very careful, others say to "punch it down!" I'll try it more gingerly, and see what the difference is!

    Thanks for all your advice and help!

    Mark (your loving bro!)



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