This month’s #BakingBloggers theme is Cast Iron Cooking. I must admit that I found this a difficult challenge as almost all our cooking is done in cast iron. My husband has collected cast iron cooking pieces for years, so we make our eggs, bacon, pancakes, hamburgers, chili, soups, almost anything in cast iron. He even makes a to-die-for Pineapple Upside Down Cake over the campfire coals in a dutch oven. For this challenge I decided to try something we have not done in cast iron so I selected Crunchy Dutch Oven Bread. I wanted to see what the benefits of using cast iron were for the bread, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that it makes the bread have a wonderful crunch to the crust that is very difficult to get with a home oven. This bread is amazing and we will be making it often!
Combine the flour, water, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 10 minutes. Depending on the size of the bowl, you may need to stop the mixer and remove the dough from the dough hook if the dough is not developing thoroughly. When the dough looks smooth, cut off a piece and stretch it. If it stretches to the point of transparency, it’s mixed enough. If not, continue mixing.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover it with a pot lid or plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size and does not spring back when you push your finger into it, 2 to 4 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead it to release the gas and redistribute the yeast. Shape it roughly into a ball, cover it with a towel, and let stand for 10 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.
Shape the dough into a tight ball – the tighter the better – by rolling it on the work surface between your palms.
Spray or coat the bottom and sides of a large Dutch oven or other heavy ovenproof pot (5 1/2 quarts or larger) with vegetable oil. Put the dough in the center of the pot and place the lid on. Allow the dough to rise again, 30 to 60 minutes (less if it’s very hot and humid, more if it’s cold).
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Rub 1 tablespoon olive oil, or more if you like, gently over the surface of the dough. Score the bread with a sharp knife or razor, making an X or a hash mark; this will allow the dough to expand freely. Sprinkle the dough with salt. Cover the pot and place it in the oven.
After 30 minutes, remove the lid, reduce the oven temperature to 375 F, and continue baking until the bread is nicely browned and cooked through. It should have an internal temperature of 200 F or so when done.
Allow the bread to rest on a rack for at least 30 minutes so that the interior finishes cooking.
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