Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cocoa Bread in the Dutch Oven

NOTE: When reading any of my blog posts about breads, it might be a good idea to read my lens on baking bread in a dutch oven first.  It might help clear up some of the things I talk about.

This morning, I put out what is possibly the best loaf of bread I've ever done!

I've read bread cookbooks where the author talks about breadmaking as if it were magic.  In a lot of ways, I agree with them. Today, the magic all came together.  It will be interesting to see if I can pull it off again.  I think I did learn something about heat management that helped. 

Once I'd figured out my problems with the flour recently, the big challenge I've been facing has been figuring out how to get a fully-cooked crumb, without a hard crust.  Both the top crust and the bottom have troubled me.  The only way to figure it out is to do it, right?

I mentioned a week or so ago that I had caught some fresh yeast in a sourdough start, so I used that today. My initial intent was just to make a good sourdough and see what I could do.  I used the same recipe I've been using for a long time whenever I do sourdough. I started last night making the sponge, just like normal.  It rose up nicely by morning. 

As I was mixing the second set of ingredients together, I just got a wild streak and I added two tablespoons of cocoa powder.  Why not?  The cool thing about bread is that once you get consistent results from a basic core recipe, you can add any kind of enrichments you like.  Flavorings, herbs, fruits, nuts, seeds,...  Anything you like.

I kneaded it up and, even though it took a while to get to the right amount of flour in the mix, it windowpaned very nicely. 

One hint...  When you leave your sponge out overnight to ferment, cover it with plastic or something.  I didn't today, and there was this dry crusty-ness over the top.  I thought it would dissolve into the dough as I kneaded it, but it didn't and I was picking clumps out of it the whole time I was kneading.

Anyway, I set it aside to rise, and when I came back about an hour and a half or so later, it looked incredible.  So nicely risen, with a smooth texture...  Mmmmm...

I got some coals started and got the lid preheated with about 25-30 coals.  Once it was ready, I made a bottom ring of 12 coals, and then about 24 on top.  Now, keep in mind that this is the dead of winter, but there wasn't much wind.  It was probably about 30 degrees out this morning or so. 

The interesting thing was that I didn't replenish.  I just let the coals keep burning.  The coals were pretty white, but still quite new by the time that I put the oven on, and I just let them go.  It baked for about 45 minutes to an hour.  I think letting the coals die off may have had a big impact on how the crust was formed (above and below).  I rotated it about ever 15-20 minutes.  After about 35 minutes, I put the thermometer in.  I took it off the coals a little early, too, at about 180 degrees.  I brought the hot oven inside and left the bread in.  After about 10 minutes, it was up to an internal temperature of 190 and I took it out of the oven to fully cool. 

It was then that I saw how soft the lower crust was, and how nice the texture and thickness of the upper was as well.  I was a little nervous that the crumb would still be doughy, but there hadn't been crumbs sticking to the thermometer when I pulled it out.

So, I'm feeling pretty stoked tonight.  When you do something and it all works, and the magic comes together, it's a good feeling.


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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