Baking Bread in Cast Iron - No Preheat Method - photos


We all know that baking bread in a cast iron dutch oven was popularized by Jim Lahey and his no-knead bread. However, getting the dough into a hot hot dutch oven is a hassle. Know what? You don't need to preheat that dutch oven to make great bread (and you can just use your favorite sourdough recipe too).

Here's what I do...

 > [b]preheat the oven[/b]

> [b] do NOT preheat the cast iron dutch oven and lid[/b]

> [b]grease the dutch oven and let your dough rise directly in it[/b]

Here's my detailed illustration of this method with photos.

=== [b]EQUIPMENT[/b] ===

I used a two-quart capacity non enameled cast iron dutch oven. For the lid, I used a non enameled cast iron skillet, placed upside-down on the dutch oven (I don't own a heavy lid that fits the two-quart dutch oven). The diameter of my dutch oven and skillet are identical, so I get a good seal during the initial baking. The dutch oven is 3 inches high and the skillet is 1 & 1/2 inches high, so I have 4 & 1/2 inches [i]interior[/i] height in total. Here's a photo of the assembly...



=== [b]INGREDIENTS[/b] ===

The bread recipe I use is a fairly standard sourdough. Ingredients are refreshed sourdough starter (at 100% hydration), commercial unbleached white bread flour, organic whole wheat flour, water and salt. Whole wheat flour is 20% of total flour. Dough hydration is 72% (this includes the water in the levain).

I baked two loaves. For each two-quart capacity dutch oven, I had 18 ounces (prebaking weight) of dough.

=== [b]FINAL PROOF[/b] ===

The dutch oven was lightly greased. After shaping, the dough proofed directly in the dutch oven. During proofing, each dutch oven was slipped into a food grade plastic bag. (I help myself to these bags from the produce section of my favorite supermarket  - they're just the right size).

When ready to bake, the dough had risen close to the top of the dutch oven.



=== [b]INITIAL BAKING[/b] ===

The oven had been thoroughly preheated to 500F so it was ready when the dough was ready.

The dough was slashed, lightly misted, covered and loaded into the oven. The oven temperature was lowered to 475F, so it baked at somewhere between 500F to 475F for twenty minutes. At the end of this time, the dough had risen about 1 & 1/2 inches, slashes had opened and the dough was just beginning to color.



=== [b]FINAL BAKING[/b] ===

The lid was removed, temperature was lowered to 450F and the bread baked in the uncovered dutch oven for 20 minutes more. At the end of the bake, when removed to the cooling rack, I was delighted to hear the (greatly desired) crackling as the crust cooled. After cooling, the post-baking weight of each loaf was slightly over 16 ounces.

[u][i]FINAL LOAVES[/i][/u]



284 users have voted.


eyendall 2010 November 28

 Nice looking loaves. I started out with the heated cast iron pot  based on the NYT article then switched to the cold pot, both with the cover on. My last attempt with the cold pot with cover on resulted in a pale top crust and some sticking to the bottom and sides. I guess I didn't grease the pot well enough nor keep it in the oven long enough. Next time I will bake without the lid on. But you are right: proofing and baking in a cold cast iron pot gives good results.

jem 2010 November 30

nice post.

I tried a cold pot (both cast and ceramic) and liked it in every way except that I had to work very hard to prevent sticking. I never found greasing to be very satisfactory, but got OK results with a heavy layer of bran or something on the bottom. Just didn't like the extra bran on the bottom of my bread. I'd do it again if I could find a way to make it work.

Midnite Baker's picture
Midnite Baker 2010 November 30

In reply to the bread sticking in your pan.  Try lining the pan bottom with parchment paper.  Or make a sling by using a fairly wide strip of parchment paper no longer than both sides and the bottom of the pan.  Place this in your pan and then the bread on top.  When the bread is finished baking, you have an easy way to unload the bread.  Handles!  Hope this helps your sticky bread problem.  And thanks for the info on baking in a cold pan. Will have to try it soon. 

Le Copain 2010 December 9

Hi, there,


I love the Lahey-way of baking bread but found the hot-pot-handling annoying from the very beginning... THANKS for this wonderful hint, which works perfect... I use pots of stainless steel with a tight fitting lid and they do fine.

As for the sticking: I proof my bread in a banneton as usual and gently transfer it into the cold pot only immediately before baking - thus, up to now, there was no sticking prob... the flour or bran that prevented the dough from sticking to the linnen in the banneton did the job in the pot, too.

JustJoeAKABeans 2011 May 11

Hi all

     I tried for simple this past weekend, first time cold LeCrueset 7 quart oval pan lined with a parchment sling,mixed my white whole wheat loaf, let proof in the pan covered for 4 hours (doubled+) sprayed, slit, baked covered 25 minutes 500 then 20 minutes at 400 uncovered. Great oven spring, great color (bottom slightly darker than top) and no sticking!

This will be repeated on a regular basis, easy, painless.

Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 May 17

No matter which method, hot or cold, that I try.


Parchment paper sticks every time, even in a Romertopf.  I'm tired of cutting PP out of the creases and slicing it off the bottom crust of my bread.

I tried geasing it, and it stuck worse.  What am I doing wrong?


Midnite Baker's picture
Midnite Baker 2011 May 17

Hi Janey,

Have you tried to dust the parchment paper with corn meal, semolina, or flour before putting your dough on the parchment paper?  I use King Arthur's Flour Parchment Paper, which has a silicone type finish to the paper and I've never had a problem with sticking. I even re-use this paper numerous times until it falls apart. Hope these suggestions help.  Happy Baking. M

Jane Williams's picture
Jane Williams 2011 May 18

Hmm.  The sides stick to the bread and I'm not sure how to make the corn meal to stick to the paper there.  I think my next chore is to order some of KA's paper.  Sounds too good to be true.





Midnite Baker's picture
Midnite Baker 2011 May 19

 Try rolling the the bottom & sides of your dough in the flour or whatever you use before laying on the parchment paper.  I have done this before and I've gotten too much on the dough.  So when the bread was done baking, I just brushed off the excess.  M

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