Can I bake a regular loaf bread recipe in a Dutch oven? Do I need to change the temperature or time?
You can bake bread in a dutch oven, as long as you have one big enough, in fact it's a great way to do it because the lid seals in moisture, preventing the crust from drying and allowing the bread to expand. You get a ton of oven spring this way, and a great crust.
The method is:
- Preheat the oven for at least half an our with the dutch oven inside
- Shape the bread, flour, semolina or corn meal the bottom well, then put it in the dutch oven, being very careful to not burn yourself. Use mitts if you can. It's often best to take it out of the oven to do this. If your DO is not much bigger than the shaped dough then make sure you flour/semolina/corn meal the sides as well, or put it on baking parchment or it will stick to the sides like glue. Flour the parchment well on all sides or it will stick to the parchment instead
- Put the DO with the dough back in the oven and cover it with the lid, which should also be pre-heated
- Bake for about half the normal baking time for that loaf, then remove the lid to let the steam out, this will allow the crust to solidify and get crunchy. The bread will have expanded all it is going to by then
- Bake the bread until done, then take it out. Some use the tap test, I back this up with an instant read thermometer, the bread will be done when it gets to 98°C inside, about 210°F
You may find that depending on your oven or your dutch oven the crust may overcook on the bottom. It's hard to predict this - you just have to try it and see how it goes. If it does get a bit too done turn down the oven 20°C/35°F during the preheating, then up to the full temp after the bread goes in.
About parchment, I don't like baking bread on parchment as I don't like the kind of crusts you get, however sometimes its the only way to keep it from sticking, again it varies with your recipe and equipment. I prefer to use semolina or coarse corn meal instead of parchment, if do use parchment I will pull the loaf out and remove it once the crust has formed enough not to be sticky.