However, I've found that a single lidded pot is the BEST way to bake bread! The finished bread is a rustic, round artisan loaf.
Follow along as I show how I now bake bread - in a pot!
*This recipe is loosely based on several "no-knead" bread recipes that have been popular in the past few years in newspaper magazines and blogs.
(If you are interested in other "out-of-the-box" baking methods, check out my CROCK-POT BREAD technique!)
Step 1: Tools & Ingredients
I'm using a Lodge brand cast iron "dutch oven" enameled pot. Lodge is more affordable than something like a Le Creuset. The only thing that I don't like about it is that it comes with a plastic knob for the lid. When I ordered my Lodge cast iron, I also ordered a Le Creuset brand replacement knob. The Le Creuset knob is metal, looks nicer, and is oven safe to a higher temperature than the plastic Lodge knob. Swapping out knobs only requires a screw-driver and can be done in about 30 seconds.
The heavy cast iron absorbs the heat of the oven, and moderates it. Most home ovens DON'T have an even temperature. They just sort of turn on and off to average to the right temperature. Cooking inside cast iron evens out the heat.
The tight-fitting heavy lid seals in the moisture, steaming the bread as it bakes, creating an AMAZING crust!
You could also use a camping-type black cast iron dutch oven, or a ceramic pot with lid, but the enameled cast iron is my favorite! As long as it's heavy and has a good lid, whichever pot you use should be fine.
You'll also need a mixing bowl, dry and wet measuring cups, measuring spoons, and a clean tea towel or cloth.
For the ingredients:
1/4 teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
1&1/2 teaspoons of Salt
1&1/2 cups warm water
3 cups flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, or a mix of both)
Step 2: Mix the Dough
I typically warm water in the microwave in a Pyrex measuring cup. For baking, make sure you use good water. If you have bad well water, or city water with chlorine in it, you might want to use filtered or distilled water. Yeast is a living thing and doesn't like bad water.
Put yeast in the mixing bowl. Add water, stir.
Add salt, stir.
Add the flour. Recently I've been using a mix of 2 cups natural unbleached all-purpose and 1 cup organic whole wheat.
Mix it all together. It will be sticky/shaggy/wet, that's OK. Put plastic wrap over the mixing bowl, and set it aside for overnight. I usually put mine above the refrigerator - it's a little warmer there and out of the way of children and pets.
The long rise time makes it so you can skip kneading the bread, and adds just a tad of a "sour-dough" flavor.
Step 3: Dough Rise & Handling
Dust your work surface with a little flour. Pull the dough out of the mixing bowl. Just roll it into a ball, sprinkle with flour as needed.
Set the tea towel or cloth over a bowl, and sprinkle a little flour or corn meal in it. Put the ball of dough in there, sprinkle a little more flour on top, and cover with the rest of the towel.
Allow the dough to rest for an hour or two. This gives it a bit of time to rise a little more.
Step 4: Preheat Oven WITH the Pot
Half an hour before your dough is ready, preheat your oven to 475 degrees F. But put the cast iron pot in the oven right away.
The dutch oven will heat up inside your bake oven as it gets hot.
Step 5: Put Dough in Pot
Now, lift the tea towel and use it to transfer the dough to inside the hot pot.
Put the lid back on, and place the whole thing in the oven.
Step 6: Bake
At 30 minutes, remove the lid, and bake uncovered another 20 minutes.
After that, remove from oven and let bread cool on a rack.
Step 7: Eat!
You might find that it's almost hard to cut with a bread knife! I've found that an old-fashioned deli-style meat slicer actually works really well to slice bread, especially if you want even slices for sandwiches.
This bread also toasts and grills extremely well. It's IDEAL for classic grilled sandwiches like Reubens and Grilled Cheese.
If you want to get REALLY wild, you can even make dinner rolls or sausage rolls with this same recipe and baking technique.
So now it's your turn! Why don't you mix up some dough tonight and tomorrow you will have have delicious BREAD IN A POT!