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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Baking in a Pot


If you're hungry and love freshly made bread (and really, who doesn't?) you should probably get yourself a snack before you start reading. Otherwise your mouth will keep watering, and you'll slobber all over your keyboard. You have been warned ;-)

Because today I am going to share how to make the ultimate scrumptious crunchy rustic bread!

It's actually more about the process of making it than the recipe, and by all means  I didn't invent it, I just kept reading everywhere about this bread that you bake in a pot that is supposed to be so yummy. And you know me. Where there's yummy, I can't be far.

Here we go: Olden days cast iron pot bread

The good news is: No kneading required.
The not so good news is: a cast iron pot with a holding capacity of 135 fl oz (4 Liters) and a lid and a lot of patience is required. 

I didn't have a pot like this, and patience isn't my strongest suit.

Ingredients: (Source: Karin Messerli)

3.5 cups all purpose flour (440g)
1.5 tsp salt
0.25 tsp dry yeast
1.5 cups water, warm, about 100°F = 38°C (360ml)

Directions:

Put flour in a bowl, form a well, sprinkle salt on the rim and yeast in the well (rumor has it they don't like each other very much) pour in the water and stir with a wooden spoon until everything is well incorporated. It will be really wet and sticky, and it's supposed to be that way.




Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 12 - 18 hours (patience, remember? It is a very small amount of yeast, but it's literally going to work day and night for you!)






When it looks all bubbly and fluffy and has doubled in size, you want to scrape it out and place in on a well-floured kitchen cloth. 


Flour your hands and form your dough into a ball shape as well as you can. 


Cover with some more flour, wrap your loaf into the kitchen cloth and let it rise for yet another 1 - 2 hours. I know, you're getting antsy here… Also you may be thinking "why is she making two?"

Because I am curious! I was wondering if the whole "baking in a pot" really made such a difference so that it was actually worth doing it. So I doubled the ingredients and divided the dough into two balls.

Put your cast iron pot (no greasing necessary) on the lower rack of your oven and preheat both the oven and the pot  to 465°F (240°C) for about 30 minutes. 
The maximum temp in my oven is 445°F (230°C) and it was fine.

Take your pot from the oven and dump the loaf in.
If you can, try and place the nicer surface on top. I had so much respect of the piping hot pot that I was just glad I didn't miss it, and that my dough made it into the pot! 


In my case I put one in the pot and one on the good old baking tray.

With a serrated knife, slash an X in the top of the loaf.

Cover your pot with the lid and put it back into the oven for 30 minutes.

Sit and wait. 

Remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Almost there! The nice smell is already here. 

Take the pot out, carefully take the bread out, be amazed that nothing sticks to the pan, let your beautiful and nicely smelling bread cool on a wire rack. 



Left: baking tray, right: cast iron pot

Now every recipe will tell you to let cool completely before slicing and serving - let's be realistic, though! We all have been waiting enough now. I think it's OK to slice as soon as you can touch the bread without hurting your fingers. 



Left: baking tray, right: cast iron pot

So what's the verdict? The "pot bread" won. Wow! Really, really crunchy! And it's supposed to stay fresh for many days. Only with bread like this - we will not find out about that!

I hope you'll give this a try and let me know how it turned out!