Let’s bake some bread!

After all this waiting and preparing, it’s time for the actual baking.  Since my oven doesn’t have a steam injector like professional ovens, I’m going to mimic the steam effect and use a cast iron pan/pot combo.  You could use a dutch oven, but Christine didn’t want me to ruin the Le Crueset that we have so I just got cast iron instead.

I use a Lodge LCC3 Logic Pre-Seasoned Combo Cooker.  I’ve been using it for bread making ever since I got it.  I’d like to get another so I can bake 2 loaves at the same time.

I take my dough out of the fridge.  Then I heat up the oven (with the Lodge cooker inside) to 500 degrees for about 20 min..

During this time I get my knife and rice flour ready, since I’ll need it for the next step.

Once hot, I put on my oven gloves and take out the shallower part of the cooker and place it on my stove.  Warning:  Not only can the cast iron be heavy, but it gets very hot.  Therefore, I can’t hold this for long.  Especially since my gloves are really only rated for up to 400 degrees, so I can only hold the cast iron for about 5 seconds before I start to feel the heat through the glove.  Also, you don’t want the skillet to be out of the oven for more than a few minutes.  You have to work fast!

I uncover my bread from the basket and sprinkle more rice flour, since the top of the bread is now going to be the bottom.  I flip the dough onto the scalding skillet and make my slashes, so that the bread is allowed to expand.

Then I put on my gloves and put the skillet back into the oven.  I then cover it with the other part of the cooker.  Now I bake it for 20 min. covered.  Baking bread inside the combo cooker or dutch oven creates steam and allows the bread to rise.

After 20 min., I remove the cover and bake for an additional 25 min.  The additional bake time (with the cover off) dries the outer part of the bread and gives it that nice crust.

After 25 more min. (uncovered), I check to make sure the bread has a nice golden brown crust.  Sometimes it’s not dark enough, so I just keep it in the oven for an additional 5 more min.

Once done, I lift the bread with a metal spatula and tap the bottom to see if its done.  Then I let it cool on a wire rack for 2 hours.  I’ve always been told that you know your bread is done, when you tap the bottom and hear a hollow sound.

Now its really important that you let the bread cool a bit before you cut into it.  You can put your ear up to the bread while it’s cooling to hear the crackling of the crust.  I like to say “If your bread talks back to you, you know you did a good job”.

After the bread has cooled down, slice it up and get ready to eat it.

Now that’s a nice looking loaf!

Save for later:  Usually we can only eat one loaf at a time (even then it’s a lot of bread!), so I cut the second loaf in half and freeze each half separately.  To reheat the bread, preheat the oven at 400 degrees.  Bake the frozen bread in the oven for 10-15 min.(varies), this is usually enough time to give the bread a nice crunchy crust.  Enjoy!

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