The Tool I Use To Make Perfect Homemade Bread Every Time
There's nothing quite like the smell of bread baking straight from your home oven. A few months ago, I said farewell to my local bakery, threw on my apron, and got busy combining flour, salt, yeast, and water myself. At first, I was unsure about making my own dough—as if it was a daunting science I was falling short of mastering. I'd find myself taking the dough out of the oven at the sound of the timer (when my dough should have been perfectly golden), only to see the top was slightly burnt and the insides not even halfway cooked through. I soon realized that the problem wasn't my cooking skills. I was just missing one necessary tool to get that bread down to an art: a Dutch oven.
Why the Dutch oven is perfect for baking homemade bread
Like most people, I own a Dutch oven and mainly use it to cook up a winter brisket, braised chicken, or a big batch of homemade chowder. But, while testing my bread skills, I quickly found the chunky kitchen staple works its magic far beyond the stove top. Dutch ovens distribute heat all around—something the convection setting on your oven only attempts. My bread could nestle inside the pot with the lid on and actually hold whatever toasty temperature (say, 350 degrees) I'd bake it at. This oven-inside-an-oven situation had me looking like an all-star baker as soon as I incorporated it into my baking routine.
If this is your first rodeo with bread, remember to generously flour the bottom of your pot and let your Dutch oven preheat for 20 to 30 minutes in the oven while you get your risen-dough out. Then, throw your soon-to-be-loaf into the bottle of your Dutch oven with the lid on, and then place it back into the oven for another 30 minutes or so (check your recipe's recommendation). Next, it's time to get creative and personalize the flavor profile of your bread with dried spices to your liking. Take your bread out again, add dried rosemary or oregano or thyme to the top of the loaf, and put your Dutch oven back in with the lid off for its final 30 minutes. Though any Dutch oven will get the job done, I love my Signature Round Dutch Oven by Le Creuset. These pots are forever, literally—don't overlook that lifetime warranty!
No disrespect to your local baker, but you won't be stopping by anytime soon. After incorporating this foolproof pot, you'll be bringing warm homemade bread to every dinner party you penciled in.