One of the reasons Darrold started baking bread was because we loved the crusty loaves we got when traveling in other countries. He has tried many techniques since we don’t have a professional baking oven with steam injection. Steam is critical to a crusty crust with a soft, holey inside. He tried putting a pan of ice cubes in the oven, spraying the oven as the bread was baking – nothing. Then he learned about baking in a cast iron Dutch oven. This holds in the steam and makes such delicious loaves. No oil, nothing. People have asked if it has to be cast iron. That’s all we have but it seems that it should work in an enamel pan as long as it has a lid. Here is what he does:
The ideal method of baking utilizes a cast iron Dutch oven, 8 or 9 inches across the bottom. When using a Dutch oven, a pizza stone may be used but is not necessary. Preheat oven and Dutch oven to 475 degrees at least 30 minutes prior to baking; 45 minutes is better. This heats the pan through so it’s as hot as the ambient oven temperature.
Place half the dough in the ungreased Dutch oven, cover, and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 10-15 minutes more depending on how brown a crust is desired. All ovens are different so use your judgment and a thermometer. The internal temperature, as with other methods, needs to be at least 200 deg. F.
Note: The oven is hotter than for most baking. The handle of the Dutch oven will be very hot when you remove it.