Baking Bread in a Pizza Oven Using Cast Iron
Any wood fired oven, whether it is a brick oven or a modular portable pizza oven, will store heat well and often you will find that after having cooked pizza for the family, there is still enough heat for another few dishes. I like to use that last, wonderful wood fired heat for baking something to enjoy the next day or two.
Here’s what I bake in my pizza oven that I absolutely love: no-knead bread made in a cast-iron pot. So simple to make and so crazy good. (I admit that I usually make this after I have had a meal, because otherwise I might just eat the whole loaf by myself right out of the oven! With a stick of butter.)
So here is the recipe for a no-knead, long-fermented rustic bread, Southern Italian-style. It is a very forgiving recipe, great for first-timers and experienced bread-bakers alike.
You will need:
A 4 ½ to 5 ½ – quart cast iron pot or enameled cast iron pot
3 cups (400 grams) bread flour
1 ¼ teaspoons (8 grams) table salt
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) instant or other active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups (300 grams) cool water (55 to 65 degrees F)
Wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour, for dusting
In a medium bowl stir together flour, salt, and yeast. Add the water and using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix for about 30 seconds. This is supposed to be a “wet”
dough as most of the water is meant to be released as steam in the covered pot later. So if it is not really sticky to the touch, add another tablespoon or two of water.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, towel, or plate and leave it to slowly rise out of direct sunlight, at room temperature (about 72 degrees F). Fermentation will be complete within 12 to 18 hours and when the surface is dotted with bubbles and dough has more than doubled in size.
When the first fermentation is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough onto the work surface. It will be loose, sticky but do not add more flour. Use lightly floured hands to lift the edges of the dough toward the center. Tuck in the edges to create a round shape.
Generously dust a cotton or linen tea towel with the wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour and using your hands or spatula, gently lift the dough onto the towel, seam side down. Dust the dough very lightly with a little flour. Fold the ends of the towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours or until almost doubled in size. Test it by poking gently with your finger. If it holds the indentation, then it is ready. If it springs right back, then let it rise for another 15 minutes.
About 15-20 minutes before the end of the second rise place the cast iron pot in your pizza oven.
When the bread dough is ready to bake, take the pot out of the oven (carefully, it will be very hot) and lift the dough, quickly inverting it into the pot, seam side up. Cover the pot, slide in the wood burning oven and bake.
Check the heat of your wood fired oven with an infrared thermomether, it should ideally read 475 degrees F. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and let the bread continue baking without the lid for another 15 or more minutes. The bread should develop a nice deep chestnut color, but not burnt. If the oven is hotter than 475, then adjust the time accordingly, checking the loaf earlier and baking it for less time.
Once the bread is done, use a spatula or pot holders to carefully lift it out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool for one hour before eating.
Buon appetito from Los Angeles Ovenworks!