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Over the weekend I took my dutch oven and tried to bake bread over the campfire. I had two problems, one was getting enough heat. That is really my problem and I just lowered the grate over the fire to get the right heat.

The second problem, and thus my question is that the bottom of the bread was burnt. I used parchment paper in the bottom to make it easier to put the bread in and so it doesn't stick. However the bread was burnt on the bottom. I realize this is because of the amount heat on the bottom of the pan. What could I do to help reduce the burning on the bottom of the bread? Would using a cast iron pizza pan under the dutch oven help?

I put the dutch oven on a fire grate above the fire.

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did you put coals on the lid of the dutch oven? That is the usual approach to make it hot throughout rather than just from the bottom –  Kate Gregory Sep 5 '12 at 14:08
    
No. Clarified where the dutch oven was sitting. Should I put the dutch over IN the fire? –  Mike Wills Sep 5 '12 at 14:10
    
I am getting a lot of useful information. I never cooked with a dutch oven before, so it was all a big experiment. –  Mike Wills Sep 6 '12 at 13:14

5 Answers 5

Many camping cookbooks recommend picking up some coals from the fire and putting them on the lid of the dutch oven while it is on a grate above the fire. This gives a more "all around" heat rather than just trying to cook the whole loaf of bread from the bottom. This image search gives lots of examples.

Personally, I don't try to bake a whole loaf of bread - I make English muffins. Quicker time to edible food, easier cleanup, you don't need to carry a heavy pot since the frypan is coming anyway, and if one burns the rest might still be ok, so less risk. (Important when you're feeding your children in the wilderness.) I wrote it up with pictures long ago - see if that helps you.

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When not using coal, but a camp fire, you could use this method by lighting up a second fire with wood on top of the dutch oven lid. –  awe Sep 6 '12 at 10:43
    
when I said coals, @awe, I didn't mean they started as lumps of coals. A fire made with large pieces of wood will break up into embers or coals after long enough, and these glowing used-to-be-wood chunks are what to put on top of the pot. Flames really suck for cooking with. –  Kate Gregory Sep 6 '12 at 13:18

Your fire was probably too hot at the bottom, and too cold at the top of the dutch oven. Was it flames or coals and ashes? Only the latter will do correctly.

You can heat the dutch oven (including the lid) before you put the bread inside, to make the temperature more regular. Turning it 1/4 of a circle every 1/4 of the time also helps having a more homogeneous temperature and less black spots.

As a workaround if you only have flames or are in a hurry you can better insulate the bread from the oven's walls by adding a layer of cardboard where it would burn without additional insulation. That will avoid the bottom burning and allow it to cook nevertheless (because of the inside temperature of the dutch oven).

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Coals on the lid will help. I put a flat stone in the bottom to bake on like a slate in a pizza oven. You could use a rack if you are cooking in a pan. Either way keep it off the bottom. Parchment paper is too thin, you have to dissipate the direct heat.

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For Dutch oven cooking you need a ground based fire, no grates or other structures

When the wood or charcoal is burning pure (no smoke), scrape away a mound of coals from the main fire. The amount depends on the type of wood and the time required for cooking. For a typical hardwood charcoal around 4 l per half hour (1 US gal) for typical recipe in typical Dutch oven

If your Dutch oven does not have a rim to hold the hot coals, just invert the lid. Place slightly more than half the coals on the lid. Then place Dutch oven over other half of hot coals still on ground. They should have be scraped into a tidy flat shape the size of the oven

Take temperature readings every 20 minutes or so and adjust coal level for your recipe. Use a long metal stem digital thermometer and just poke it under the lid without lifting the lid fully off

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This answer pertains to your second question--how to reduce burning on the bottom of the bread.

Cracked wheat or some other course grain, sprinkled on the bottom of the dutch oven before putting the bread in, will slow down how much heat absorbs from that direction. You'll notice this sometimes with store bought sourdoughs. This gives more time for the sides and top to cook before the bottom burns.

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Cornmeal works well for this. I use it for muffins and pizza in a frying pan in the wild, and for bread on a pizza stone in the oven at home. Works better than oil and much easier to clean up too. –  Kate Gregory Sep 6 '12 at 13:20

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