Monday, December 26, 2011

Decorative Dutch Oven Breads

When I was a little kid, one of our erstwhile Christmas traditions was to do bread sculptures.  Mom would make up a basic variant on a french bread dough, and after it had risen, we would shape it into Santa faces, or Christmas trees, or lots of other options.  Sometimes, mom would make up a big batch of dough and we’d make 6 or 7 fairly big Santas, and then we’d deliver them to some special friends.

I mentioned that memory to my mom in a phone call a few weeks ago.  We laughed and reminisced about it, and then I asked her for the recipe, which she rattled off from memory.  I jotted it down.

I really wanted to try something like that in my Dutch ovens this year.  I started to think about how to make it work in the circular shape of the oven.  I decided on some other designs, a sun and a moon shape.

Here’s how it happened:

Decorative Dutch Oven Bread

2x 12” Dutch Ovens
14-15 coals below (each)
18-22 coals above (each)

  • 2 Tbsp Yeast
  • 3 Cup water (110 degrees)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ Tbsp salt
  • 8 Cups fresh bread flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp oil
  • Egg to glaze

I started out by increasing the amounts in the original recipe by half.  I figured that doubling the recipe would be too much, and that the basic recipe wouldn’t be enough.  I wanted to do two Dutch ovens’ worth, so I adjusted it by 150%.  That gets the measurements listed above.

I mixed the water, the yeast and the sugar first, and let that sit for about 10 minutes, while I gathered the other ingredients.  As always, I reduced the amount of flour (only 8 cups) in the starting mix, and added more in the kneading.  I also sifted the flour.  Sometimes I do that, and other times, not, by my whim.  I sometimes think that it aerates the flour and makes it a little fluffier.  I heard a TV chef say that one day.  I dunno for sure.

I mixed the liquid and the powders, and stirred it all up.  I turned it out onto the floured tabletop, and kneaded, sprinkling on more flour.  Once it made a nice windowpane, I tucked it into a ball, oiled the bowl and put it in.  I also sprayed oil on the dough ball, and then covered it with a towel, to rise.

Once it had risen, I turned the big dough ball out onto my floured tabletop, with two Dutch ovens, sprayed with oil, next to it.  Mise en Plase...  Now, at this point, I should have gone out and lit up the coals.  If you try this, that’s how you should do it, I think.  I did it later in the process, and I think the dough over-rose.  It didn’t spring quite like I had thought it would.

I cut the dough into  quarters.  My plan was to spread a layer of dough all around the bottom, almost like a pizza crust (but without the rim).  That would be my “canvas”.  Then I would build the image on top of that.  I started with the sun.  I made a round circle in the middle for the face, then rolled the flares like clay snakes in between my hands.  Another few snakes made the eyebrows, the nose, and the smile.  A couple of balls, with a deep poke in the center with a finger, made the eyes.

Then, the moon.  I shaped a crescent, and then did an eyebrow, nose, lips and an eye the same way.  I also added a couple of stars to the left of the crescent.

At this point, I would have gone out and poured a lot of coals out on the two lids, to preheat.  While that’s preheating, I’d leave the art in the Dutch ovens to rise.  Also, set more fresh coals in the fire to start.

Once they’d risen a little bit more, and the lids got good and hot, I beat up a couple of eggs and spread them all over the sculptures.  I was pretty liberal, so it would help the thinner bits stay on.  Then, I put the Dutch ovens on and under the coals.  I marked the time, and went inside to rest.

It wasn’t freezing today, but it wasn’t exactly warm, either.  So, after about 15 minutes, I rotated the Dutch ovens, and added some coals.  I only added a couple on the bottom, and much more on top.  I lifted the ovens and tapped the ash off the coals.  I did the same with those on top.  I also inserted a short-stemmed thermometer.

Another 15-20 minutes and it was done!  I pulled them off and put them on cooling racks.

I was really excited with the results!  The sun turned out better than the moon (which I’m eating as I type this).


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

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes the decorations on the bake bread can add appetite on the kids. Great Stuff I like your blog.



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