Dutch Oven · life · recipe

Crusty Bread in a Dutch Oven

I was “gifted” with a Dutch Oven for Christmas, which I am thinking might be one of the best gifts I’ve ever received…and I’m not just saying that because the giver of the Dutch Oven reads my blog…because I’m not sure if she does. Let’s check: “Thank you, Tre, for the fabulous gift!”

Let’s see if she responds…I’ll let you know later.

Anyway you might be asking what a Dutch Oven is and thinking about why you might need one, too, so let me explain. A Dutch Oven is an enamel-coated cast iron pot that, when heated, maintains amazing temperature much like a slow cooker. I’ve been using a crock pot for years and years, which is why I never got myself a Dutch Oven before, but I will be the first to admit this was a silly mistake.

Slow cookers may *do* Everything a Dutch Oven does, but there’s something more “down home” and heart warming about using your oven to bake bread! It amazes your kids, too!

I know, I know…the gluten! But to be totally honest, unless you have a known allergy to gluten (aka celiac disease), I am just not convinced that gluten is a big horror. Perhaps it’s bad in processed/commercial breads, but even then I’m not sure the gluten is the culprit. Yeah, I’m talking to you high fructose corn syrup!

And while I’m on the subject of HFCS, can I just agree now with my European friends that American bread is SO sweet! It’s too sweet! IMHO, we’ve ruined our palates eating these over sweetened commercial breads.

Before you think I am pointing a blame finger, I’m just as guilty as anyone. I could never envision eating the New England classic Fluffernutter without fresh Country Kitchen Canadian White bread. By the way, the idea that there’s a different kind of bread called Canadian White is just a myth; my Canadian friend has confirmed that there is no such thing! (The horror!!)

Okay I hear ya. I’m done preaching, so I’ll get off my soapbox now and back to the subject: making wonderful and easy homemade bread in a Dutch Oven.

This is a great BASE recipe! Which means, you can experiment with variations. I myself am envisioning a nice Italian loaf with rosemary (my fave!), basil, oregano and a nice cheese blend of Romano and Parmesan. Doesn’t that sound awesome? Drool!

Also…Did I mention this is so easy to make? There’s no kneading and only one (overnight) rising! Couldn’t be easier!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 5.5 quart Dutch Oven
  • An oversized bowl
  • Six cups all purpose flour (I always use King Arthur, because it’s unbleached)
  • 3 cups room temperature water
  • 2 tsp. salt (adjust to your taste)
  • 1 tsp. Active dry yeast (this is about half an envelope if you are using the packets)
  • Extra flour for the pan and your hands

Instructions:

  • The night before, combine flour, salt and yeast in a big bowl then add your water and mix with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a dish towel and let it sit for between 12-18 hours in a warm part of your kitchen
  • In the morning, put your Dutch Oven (with its lid!) in your oven and then preheat both to 450 degrees
  • Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl and gently shape the dough with floured hands. Don’t knead the dough, you want the yeast bubbles!
  • Remove your Dutch Oven from the oven, remove the cover, sprinkle a bit of flour in the bottom and place the dough inside
  • Replace the cover and put the entire pot back in the preheated oven. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and bake uncovered for 20 minutes more
  • Your loaf will pop right out of the pot. Cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing the round loaf in half. Cool completely before slicing the loaf or storing it in plastic, because the steam will make your bread soggy

See how crusty it is outside but fluffy inside? That’s your objective!

That’s all there is to it. REALLY!

Now go on and make yourself some bread! You’ll be glad you did!

P.S.

Teresa: Did you read all the way to the end? Just checking. Thanks again for my beautiful aqua colored Dutch Oven! I love it…obviously!

P.P.S.

My next post will Be how to use your bread to make these Open Faced Meatball Sandwiches, so do come back soon!

Autism

Coming Around Again

I’m pretty new to this blog, so I must admit I was feeling a bit sheepish about my last post.  I didn’t want to be whiney, because no one likes complainers…but, then again, I had to get it out or I felt like I was going to have a major meltdown.

So coming back here to write took me a little time, because I wanted to be more upbeat and I wasn’t feeling it until about 20 minutes ago.  Let me explain.

After my rant on Thursday I did feel better, but there were still some things that hadn’t been resolved.  My son, Master Owen, and I were not seeing eye to eye on what to do with his angry feelings and our resident Soldier (with PTSD) wasn’t helping the situation either.  I had been trying to explain to MO about how feelings–such as anger–are important to recognize and work through, but that everyone has to find positive ways of acknowledging and expressing them.

Master Owen–a growing boy (he turns 10 in a few weeks) and also on the Spectrum–has trouble with all emotions, but in particular he struggles with angry feelings.  Lately he has been getting angry a lot.  Although I encourage him to talk about it, frankly his level of anger scares me sometimes.  Instead of being a “little irritated”, he seems to jump straight to full out rage mode.  I’m a very quiet person, who mostly has pretty happy thoughts, so angry outbursts are upsetting to me.  Although I try to divert him, I’m not always successful in defusing MO’s anger.

In the last couple of months I have noticed MO begin to hit things as a way to work through his feelings.  Unfortunately hitting things (not animals or people) isn’t always safe or free from damage.  Sure, hitting a pillow is fine, but MO has opted for a little more destructive means.  Last month it was a part of the decrepit picket fence that he destroyed.  A few months ago he dug a very deep hole behind the garage without telling anyone, which can be dangerous in thickly settled neighborhoods such as ours.  These are just a few examples of many.   And–while I am thankful he hasn’t acted out toward people or animals–I have always had that notion he could somehow spin out of control and become some crazy kid beyond my help.

This morning, at MO’s appointment with his developmental psychiatrist, I brought all of the issues about MO’s growing feelings about school, not seeing his father, kids who made him mad on the bus, and a bunch of other situations up.  I was happy that the doctor assured me I wasn’t raising a sociopath, but a “normal growing boy”.  I will also admit I felt a wee bit vindicated that he confirmed what I have been saying for months: even if another child hit him, MO should never hit back in “self defense”, but should seek out an adult in charge to handle the problem.  This did NOT make MO very happy…and, I suspect, it will make his father AND our resident Soldier just as unhappy.

So, as we traveled back from the clinic, I drove rather silently wondering what I should do.  To be honest, I didn’t feel that much better, because I didn’t have a solution to the problem.  So I said a little prayer asking for some help…just a little more insight or a possible solution.  (Now–for those who are just getting to know me–please don’t take me as one of those Bible thumpers that praises God for every open parking space or something; I do pray and I am a believer in the power of prayer, but I’m not pushy about it either.)

We drove nearly 45 minutes home and nothing happened, but as I took the turn up my street you could have blown me over with a feather with what I saw!  My neighbor at the bottom of the street had put out a nearly new professional punching bag set on the curb with a $50 price tag!  It was perfect!  Without being overly overjoyed so I could maintain a modicum of coolness, I asked MO what he thought.  He gave it careful consideration–as he always does–and replied:  “Yes.  I think I would like that very much.”

In a heartbeat, I turned around and went out to talk to the seller and, before we knew it, MO was the proud owner of a brand new punching bag with a full hanging contraption AND a pair of professional boxing gloves, too.  When I told the wife how it was a little answered prayer, I found out she is a AND the mother of three boys and completely agreed it would be an excellent option for young MO!

I also procured a 42″ 8 hp snowblower in awesome condition for next to nothing, because–yeah–we live just north of Boston and everyone’s is talking about how this year will be as bad as last year…which was pretty bad.

Isn’t it amazing how these things work out?

All the best–Ritamarie

P.S. So, hey, if you have any experience with anything I’ve written or just a little advice…or you just want to talk about the snow, I’d love to hear about it.   And, as always, thanks for listening.