|Original Dutch oven|
In the American West of the Cowboy era the cook in charge of the Chuck wagon on the cattle drives would have had a whole set of these in his Conestoga wagon. Click the link above to see how that was done. One can cook anything in an American Dutch Oven--stews, roasts, vegetables, biscuits, bread and even dessert!
Now days this term is used for any cast iron enameled cook pot with a tight fitting lid. These pots can be very, very expensive. For example the British department store John Lewis sell the typical Le Creuset cast iron enameled Round Casserole large enough to bake this bread for £165.00. I purchased mine from Ikea for £40.00 three years ago. It is the large 5 quart cast iron enameled cooking pot which is a staple of their cookware.
|My model assisting in the photo shoot!|
My friend Chrisi Kincaid back in Pullman, Washington brought this Famous NY Times No knead bread recipe to my attention back in 2006. I've never been a fan of bread, using it mainly for the occasional piece of toast and a sandwich but that's it. Then I tried this bread recipe and I was hooked! It comes out every time and the round boule has that artisan flavor and texture so beloved and so difficult for home bakers to achieve--browned crispy crust that shatters when you bit into it and a lovely, yeasty, chewy texture with air holes throughout. REAL bread!
|My Ikea cast iron enameled "dutch oven"|
I usually sprinkle the top of my bread with a mixture of mustard, poppy, and sesame seeds, but over the years I've also mixed shredded cheese and diced green Chiles, various seeds, and three cheeses into my dough while prepping for the final rise (freshly shredded Parmesan, extra mature cheddar, and Asiago) and brought it to table warm and sliced to accompany a good meal. It makes excellent crostini and we like it for sandwiches too. It doesn't last long so I usually bake a loaf 2-3 times a week which is no hardship when bread is this easy to make and tastes this fabulous.
My recipe differs from that of the original above in the link because I add 1 Tablespoon of dry active yeast to my flour. Otherwise it has trouble rising in a home (or boat) with varying temperatures. I also put my rising dough bowl on top of my fridge as that is one of the consistently warm places on our boat. I would even wrap the bowl in a towel if necessary to keep it warm.
3 cups of extra strong bread flour or plain flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 Tablespoon of active dry yeast
1 and 1/2 cups of warm water
Mix dry ingredients with a spoon, add warm water and mix well until all the dry ingredients are wet and well incorporated. Cover and let rise minimum of 12 hours-maximum of 18 hours. Plastic shower hats work great to cover bread dough.
Scoop out dough onto well floured counter top and give it about five to eight gentle kneads. Now is the time to add any extras like seeds, raisins, spices, cheese, Chiles, etc. Shape into a round boule or ball, and set it on a large sheet of baking or parchment paper and cover with a dish towel. Let rise for 30 minutes.
While the dough is rising put your dutch oven with the lid on, in your oven and preheat both oven and pan together to thirty minutes at 450F or gas mark 7.
When the 30 minutes is up carefully pull your very hot pot from the oven, remove the lid. Take the dish towel off your risen bread dough, (wet the surface with a brush and sprinkle with seeds, cheese or salt now), score the top with a sharp knife and place the dough and the parchment paper in the hot dutch oven. This is why its good to use a large sheet of baking paper so you can grab it by the corners. Put the lid on (it doesn't matter if paper is sticking out as long as the lid is on tight) and place your pot back inside the oven. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on and then remove the lid and let the bread finish baking for another 15-20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, remove the bread from the pan, peel the parchment paper away and allow the bread to cool on a wire rack.
Slice bread into long slices about a in inch in width, and then slice each piece in half. Cut at least two long slices for each person (four half pieces). Butter one side of each piece. Either sprinkle garlic powder over each buttered slice or fresh minced garlic--depends on how garlicky you like it and how upscale you want it to taste. Sprinkle each buttered, seasoned slice with liberal amounts of grated Reggiano-Parmesano, Asiago, or Grana Padano cheese and place the slices under the broiler. Broil on high for about two minutes--long enough for the cheese to bubble and brown a bit. Serve hot or cold--either way its addictive and satisfying. Crostini is great with soups, stew, or gravy--anything needing a mopped up plate. It is also a wonderful way to use a bit of bread that is a few days old and beginning to dry out.