I hauled our cast iron dutch oven out of storage, cleaned and re-seasoned it, and got it ready for some bread baking. Baking bread in a dutch oven is simple: you preheat the dutch oven in your regular oven, put the dough in there, cover it, and bake it. For the last few minutes of baking you take off the lid to help color the crust. A simple Google search on dutch oven bread recipes presented variations on this one by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery, so I gave it a try.
The crust was nice, the crumb was nice, but there was a certain flavor to it I didn’t care for, probably having to do with the overnight fermentation on the counter. So I adapted a more tried-and-true lean bread recipe, using a cold rise in the fridge, and had much better results.
Okay, great. What now?
My first experiment was with bacon bread. Same lean dough recipe, perhaps a little wetter than usual, with pieces of cooked bacon added to the mixing process. It turned out really well. There was a faint smoky flavor throughout the loaf, and the little bacon bits added texture. Any concerns about the salt content of the bacon affecting the yeast were unfounded: it rose just fine in the fridge. I used the leftover dough to make pizza, which was really quite good.
|Bacon dough, pre-rise|
|Bacon dough, after 3 days in the fridge|
|The baked bacon bread|
|Bacon bread crumb|
|Bacon dough pizza with chicken parm and pepperoni|
Where else do we go with this?
As I leafed through a Zingerman’s catalog, I saw their mail-order breads and found my answer: Parmesan pepper bread. If the salty bacon didn’t mess up the rise, surely a salty cheese like Parmesan wouldn’t, either. Right?
|Raw loaf in the hot dutch oven – note the pepper|
|Parmesan pepper boule|
|The crumb shot|
It came out perfectly. There’s a great, rich taste of Parmesan cheese, mixed with a pleasant, lingering heat from about two teaspoons of black pepper. As before, I’d done nothing different in the mixing and kneading process: I just added the extra ingredients in the beginning.
No eggs, milk, or butter needed: just a straight flour-water-yeast-salt dough, plus the flavoring of your choice.