By the time I competed in the Winter Camp Cookoff in Colusa, Calif., in January 2005, I had baked this bread numerous times. Each time, diners told me how much they enjoyed it.
On one occasion, the bread helped secure an invitation to a three-day barbecue. When I learned of the October 2009 Oinktoberfest in Oroville, Calif., I said that I would "work for free pig."
"If you would like to come to Oroville this Saturday with one single Dutch oven and make one loaf of bread like you made ... for my 50th birthday," said Leonard Sanders, chef-owner of Chuck Wagon BBQ Co., "we will feed ... all the pork that you can eat." I obliged.
I modified the recipe each time I baked the bread. One year pesto stood in for the oil in the recipe. At other times I added sundried tomatoes and rosemary to the dough. And the recipe easily converts to a whole wheat bread by substituting whole wheat flour for the white flour.
Sometime in early 2009 I converted the recipe to weight measures. Pre-weighing the dry ingredients into a zipper-top bag saved the trouble of carrying a scale to camp. After kneading the dough some 250 strokes, it would proof in the Dutch oven. In three hours time with little effort, everyone enjoyed bread that's much better that store-bought.
Then last week, I learned in the baking seminar that my 250-stroke kneading process overworked the dough. The seminar refreshed my baking skills. Under Chef Jim Krieg, former chef/instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academe of Portland, Ore., I was able to observe the qualities of a well developed dough. The chefs were able to feel the dough at each stage of the process.
My planned Dutch oven bread gave me the perfect opportunity to test the techniques I learned. I mixed the ingredients Wednesday morning and let the dough rest 15 minutes before the first knead. This allowed the flour time to completely absorb the moisture.
I also rested the dough 15 minutes between the first and second kneads. A 15-stroke knead, 15-minute rest and final knead of 10 strokes was all the dough needed. The dough fermented (first rise) in an oiled bus tub for nearly two hours. The cool kitchen (around 70 degrees) helped control fermentation.
After lunch, I punched the dough and divided it into 10 pieces. Five rounded balls were set in each 14-inch deep-style Dutch oven. I proofed (second rise) the dough during my Dutch oven workshop in the afternoon. I baked the bread as soon as my class concluded.
The bread was one of the hits of the evening. A nice open crumb with larger holes pleased the diners. I'm glad that I decided to bake two Dutch ovens of bread. The 35 diners devoured all of the bread. There were no leftovers.
DUTCH OVEN BREAD
This recipe uses a 14-inch deep-style Dutch oven. Cut the recipe in half for a 12-inch deep-style Dutch oven. I prefer using deep Dutch ovens for the bread. Their five-inch depth and narrow base pushes the dough up as it rises. It gives you a taller loaf.
25 ounces bread flour (bakers percent: 100%)
1-1/2 ounces sugar (6%)
1/2 ounce instant yeast (2%)
1/2 ounce salt (2%)
2 ounces vegetable oil (8%)
4 ounces eggs (16%)
15 ounces warm water (60%)
YIELD: 3 pounds dough
Mix flour, sugar, yeast and salt together in medium bowl. Mix eggs with oil, then whisk in water. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix to hydrate flour. Rest dough 5 to 15 minutes. Knead by hand 15 strokes. Rest dough 5 to 15 minutes. Knead second time by hand 5 to 10 strokes, but more gently.
Cover and set in a cool place. Let dough rise until double in size, about 1 to 3 hours. Gently punch dough down and fold. Rest 15 to 30 minutes. Divide into 5 (9.7-ounce) loaves. Gently shape into rounds or loaves.
Place loaves in greased 14-inch deep-style Dutch oven. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake with coals for 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove bottom coals after 15 minutes. Finish baking with top coals only. The internal temperature of the dough should reach 180 degrees.
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