Everyone can do this but me!!!!!!
I have a staple of dishes that I make well and spans the globe.
I am the go to guy for all cooking in my extended family.
I have been to a 1 year cooking school.
I worked in the business for 12 years.
I have access to any ingredients/equipment I need.
So why can’t I make a decent pot of baked beans!!???
I am so embarrassed that I can’t get my head around this. Living in New England I’ve been to too many pot lucks where there is this crock pot filled with creamy, brown, somewhat sweet,(my wife is British so she doesn’t like them TOO sweet) baked beans.
I have tried soaking then cooking in the oven. I’ve done the “foolproof – throw it all in and let it go for a day” recipes for crock-pot beans. Joy of Cooking, Fanny Farmer, and others have been tried. Am I not patient enough, should the pot be REALLY sealed? (I use a Le Creuset Dutch oven) Am I not soaking long enough?
Most of the recipes have come out not cooked enough, not creamy, and a bit dry.
Soak beans overnight, drain, cook in unsalted water until the "skins blow off" and the beans are tender. That's key. Once you add the seasonings, the beans won't get any more tender. And the longer you bake them, the better. I used to bake them overnight, but that's wasteful, so now I'm down to about 4 hours. They should be just covered with liquid. Toward the end, remove the lid and let the water evaporate to your liking, and until the sugars caramelize a little. Mmmmm.
I will third the "the beans make all the difference" comment. Also adding tomato paste or other acidic ingredients toughen the beans a lot. I also add a pinch of baking soda to the soaking liquid to alkalinize the beans even more. Some people say don't do it, some says it makes no difference, but I do it. Rest is time. I have realized that the most foolproof method is starting on the stove and baking it covered in the oven, for hours, until it feels right. This could mean a couple of hours, or more (I once cooked them for five hours). I too use a Le Creuset, I think it is an appropriate vessel. It just takes time, and sometimes it never gets right; then you can blame it on the quality of the beans.
I'm from New Orleans, not New England, but there is definitely something to be said for buying the RIGHT bean. I've lived in many places in the US and a few overseas spots but never did my Red Beans and Rice turn out right unless I used Camellia Brand from New Orleans. I cook a mean pot of beans but they are NOT the same without Camellias.
Could it be that there is a brand of beans that everybody uses in New England, even if it seems too downscale for your consideration, that just works? The PERFECT bean to turn out exactly what you seek? The plain old bean that everyone else can cook.
Nothing beats a real old fashioned Boston Bean Pot. It's the perfect vessel in which to bake the beans.
I've been baking beans for years and the simpler the better.
Soak the beans overnight...not in the oven..drain & rinse....
Brown sugar, a chunk of salt pork, ketchup, molasses, mustard powder, a peeled onion stuck all around with cloves, freshly ground black pepper..... throw all in the bean pot...
Bake at 350* for 2-3 hours till bubbly and beans are tender.
You will receive much more educated responses than this, but I believe the beans make the difference. Fresh beans, the right variety, will be creamier. Sealing the pot is not the answer. My great aunt Arlene, who died about 20 years ago, made the best baked beans I have ever tasted in a big roasting pan in the oven. They were served at every family occasion I can remember from my childhood until she got too old to cook them. You might want to check out Rancho Gordo for a source of great beans and cooking advice. http://www.ranchogordo.com/ Good luck!