Have you ever tried baking sourdough without a dutch oven? Did you achieve the same great tasting flavor, a light and crispy crust, and airy middle?
Or was it an epic fail (like in my case)?
For years, professional bakers and home cooks alike have been using Dutch ovens for baking sourdough bread. It is a versatile, easy-to-clean pot mostly made of cast iron and a heavy lid that provides the optimal environment for baking bread – intense heat and moisture.
Using a dutch oven to bake sourdough bread has several benefits. It is often the perfect size for baking bread, stays hot for longer, and does not lose heat as quickly as a traditional oven. A dutch oven also has a heavy lid that seals in moisture, essential when baking sourdough.
While there are several benefits to baking in a dutch oven, there are also a few disadvantages. Baking in a dutch oven takes time to perfect; not to mention, they can be expensive, relatively heavy, and hard to use.
So what do you do when you don’t own a dutch oven, or it’s just not the best option for you?
Keep reading to learn how you can bake sourdough without a dutch oven. We will discuss each technique in detail so you can decide which alternative is best for you.
Baking Sourdough Without a Dutch Oven Is Challenging
Baking sourdough requires intense heat and the right amount of moisture to ensure proper baking. In addition, the heat needs to be spread evenly throughout the dough, and the steam needs to create a barrier allowing the dough to get hot while not burning.
Providing the right amount of steam allows the dough surface to stay flexible – rising quicker, higher, and faster. This process, known as oven spring, takes place within the first 10-15 minutes before the crust has time to set.
Dutch ovens typically provide optimal heat and moisture throughout the entire baking process. On the other hand, a traditional oven does not seal tightly, allowing the steam to escape quickly.
As a result, it does not retain enough heat to ensure a good oven spring, and it is usually much larger than the bread loaf, which does not allow the bread to bake evenly.
While using a dutch oven may be an easy way to bake sourdough, giving you more consistent results, these techniques can help achieve the best possible combination of heat and steam while creating the perfect environment for baking sourdough without a dutch oven.
Baking Sourdough With a Baking Stone
One of the most common ways to bake sourdough without using a dutch oven is using a baking stone.
A baking stone is a ceramic or stone cooking surface that allows the bread to heat evenly without burning. It is porous and absorbs excess moisture allowing the bread to develop a golden brown, crispy crust.
You will want to preheat the oven for at least an hour before starting the baking process. Preheating the oven will ensure the traditional oven is nice and toasty to bake the sourdough bread.
Place the baking stone in the preheated oven. The stone will absorb the heat, then evenly distribute through the bottom of the bread. In addition, it will heat the inside of the bread loaf, ensuring essential oven rise and providing a light, airy middle.
Try using two stones if you can not achieve a crispy crust with one baking stone. You will want to place one of the stones (the one with the bread loaf) on the lowest rack in the oven. Place the second stone above the bread loaf on the highest shelf in the oven.
The heat will circulate between the two stones baking the bread through and through.
Baking sourdough using a baking stone is not only a simple alternative to using a dutch oven, but it is also cost-effective and safe to use.
Tip: To help retain moisture around the bread loaf, try placing a stockpot over the top of the sourdough.
Create Steam With Lava Rocks
Moisture is an essential aspect of the breading baking process. It allows the dough enough time to properly rise without causing the crust to harden, essentially stopping the bread from expanding.
Combining lava rocks with baking stones can create additional steam and moisture needed for the entire baking process. You will want to place the lava rocks in a cast-iron skillet. Cover rocks with water and place them at the base of the oven (below the baking stone).
After the rocks begin to steam, usually within 15 minutes, place the bread on top of the baking stone. Allow the rocks to steam for another 30 minutes before removing them from the oven. The sourdough will continue to bake at lower temperatures without adding more moisture.
Bake Sourdough in a Loaf Pan
The easiest way to bake sourdough without a dutch oven is to use two inverted bread loaf pans. Place the sourdough into one of the loaf pans while inverting the other and placing it on top. Remove the pan on top after 30 minutes of baking.
The inverted loaf pans will trap steam inside a small area, creating a mini professional oven inside your traditional home oven. You can also use a few metal clips to place around the loaf pans to make an extra seal for the moisture.
This method is simple and easy to accomplish by using several everyday household items to create the heat and moisture needed to bake sourdough bread.
Tips for Baking Sourdough Without a Dutch Oven
Even though baking sourdough in a dutch oven may provide more consistent results, there are several alternatives you can use when a dutch oven is not available. These tips can help.
- Preheat the oven for at least one hour before baking the bread.
- Use two baking stones (place one on top and one on bottom) to trap heat around the loaf.
- Place lava rocks in a cast iron skillet to create optimal steam.
- If using a glass dish for baking the sourdough, ensure it is rated for high heat.
- Always protect your hands when baking (believe me, burns are not fun)!
Baking sourdough bread in a dutch oven is often the preferred way of baking; however, there are several alternatives when a dutch oven is unavailable, or you do not own one.
The most common way is using baking stones when baking sourdough without a dutch oven. The baking stones will evenly create the desired heat needed throughout the bread, while the lava stones will deliver more steam and moisture needed to achieve a good oven spring.
If either of these methods is not a viable option for you, the last and easiest way of using inverted loaf pans may be what you need. The pans will turn your home oven into a mini professional oven creating enough heat and steam to help your bread loaf throughout the baking process.
Whether you choose to use baking stones, lava rocks, or inverted loaf pans, baking sourdough without a dutch oven is not only possible, but it is also cost-effective, easy to perfect, and still quite tasty.