Over the last few weeks, my friend Marta has been posting about a whole range of delicious breads which she made using cast-iron casserole pots. Obviously I really like Marta, but what I don’t like is her beating me on what I consider to be my turf. Like bread. Not to be outdone, I quickly got my casserole and gave the Dutch oven a try. Needless to say, there is not much to say other than Why did I not do this before? Baking the bread in the cast iron casserole keeps in the humidity and creates the most amazing texture and the chewiest crust imaginable. Thank you, Marta, for opening my eyes!
Simple Sourdough Loaf (takes ca. 18 hours and makes one medium loaf)
- 3 cups wholewheat bread flour
- 1 cup levain
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups cold water – start with 1 1/2 and adjust to suit your needs
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbs semolina, for dusting
Start by mixing the ingredients in a large bowl – I used a wooden spoon. As each flour reacts differently I tend to begin with 1 1/2 cup of water and add some more, if possible, later: a very wet dough makes for an airy but flat loaf. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave for around 30 minutes.
Using your hands, mix the ingredients thoroughly and keep kneading the dough for around 10 minutes: you want it to be rather wet, just about manageable: you’ll be surprised how well it all comes together in the end: Cover again and leave to rest until it has doubled in size. It took my dough around 8 hours, which was probably due to the fact that I hadn’t fed the starter for a while. Now prepare your proving basket by lining it with a kitchen towel which you dusted liberally with flour. Remove the dough from the bowl and quickly shape it into a neat ball, which you then place into your basket. Cover and leave to rest overnight in the fridge.
The next day, preheat the oven and your casserole dish to 240C/460F – it will take at least 30 minutes until the dish is hot enough. Open the casserole and sprinkle the semolina over the bottom, then place the bread carefully inside; score, close the lid and place the dish back in the oven. Reduce the heat to 210C/410F and bake for 45-50 minutes. This bread’s a keeper: starting it on a Saturday afternoon, you’ll be able to tuck into a fresh loaf in time for breakfast on Sunday. Once school’s back I’ll be test-driving it on a weeknight to prove my point that this is a loaf for any day – everyday, even! A big thanks goes to Suzanne of A Pug in the Kitchen for alerting me to the fact that I had mixed up teaspoons and tablespoons for the amount of salt required – I am glad an experienced baker like Suzanne realised this before anybody could follow my mistake!