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first time baking bread!

I've never made bread in my life (beyond banana bread/pumpkin bread). The first recipe I tried was a slow-rise, no-knead light wheat bread recipe by Nancy Baggett. Basic ingredients - mix of white flour and whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, yeast, a bit of melted butter, and water - as well as a standard no-knead recipe. The first rise is in a bowl, the second in a greased loaf pan. The bread had great flavor, but was pretty dense and had no crust to speak of. I just received a 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven (9 inches wide) from greencookingpots.com for the holidays and was hoping to use it for a simple recipe But which one? Jacques Pepin (even though my pot is much bigger)? The original Lahey recipe (how do I get around not using a floured towel)? Another? Please advise!

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  1. Use Lahey's original method:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13Ah9E...
    Replace the towel with parchment paper or plastic wrap.
    You could also rub copious amounts of flour into a good quality linen towel, but that is (IMO) overdoing it a little.

    1. You need a nonstick pot for Pepin's bread.

      Go with the Cook's Illustrated's version of Lahey, "Almost No-Knead " bread, a.k.a.
      "No-Knead Bread 2.0" from the Jan/Feb 2008 issue. It's online, and you can find it by searching this board. Parchment is used, no towel, and the method is less dangerous in terms of potentially burning your hand.

      1. Already two great recipes to try! Does it matter that my pot is much smaller than the ones called for in the original recipes? Should I decrease cooking temperature or time? Thanks!

        1 Reply
        1. re: superkatie

          I do the CI bread in a 6.5 qt D.O. and because it rises in a smaller bowl/pan, it crusts before the dough has a chance to spread out across the larger diameter of the D.O. So I think you'll be okay with your 4.5qt. You might get somewhat less oven spring but don't fiddle with temp/time until you've tried it as written.

        2. It's my first time too (ooooh)--I'm now doing the final rise of the Lahey No. 1 bread. I'm considering using an old Presto pressure cooker that I've never used. It's good & heavy and smaller than my 2 dutch ovens--one is stainless, the other a non-stick that's lost much of it's non-stickiness (I have concerns about using the latter pot in so hot an oven.).
          I've removed all the seals, and things, with the exception of the steam vent (doesn't want to budge). I'm wondering if this pot might work for the bread-I plan to plug the vents and holes from the other doodads with foil, and cover the handles etc. with foil too.

          What do the other Chowhounds think? Yay or Nay?

          1 Reply
          1. re: skippy2

            I think it would be fine covered with a lot of aluminum foil but I'd probably just go with the stainless dutch oven. The size will be fine. Let us know how it turns out. I was amazed at how good it was the first time I made it, just like the pictures.

          2. Hi,
            I bake bread all the time but never in the pot like you have done.
            I have done the let it rise over and over, making rye,wheat and a few others.
            I just bought the book bread in 5 minutes a day.
            Its great!!!!
            No kneading and keep dough in fridge. There are a few different types and all come out great. I even make rolls out of it and they come out great also.
            I would start with basics like this and then go to more complex breads.
            I have even taken bread baking at the CIA in Hyde Park, NY but the No Knead is much better for every day life.

            1. So I made the Lahey/Bittman bread in my pot. Even though the handle melted off (oops - they told me it was oven-safe!), the bread had great flavor. Two issues - the bottom was slightly burned and the "crust" disappeared within a few hours of cooling (got soft). How do you store the bread? Can I freeze it??

              2 Replies
              1. re: superkatie

                My bottom crust was scorched too - it works better if the oven rack is not in the lowest position. Like rustic loaves from good bakeries, the crispness of the crust does not last beyond the first day. Make sure the bread is thoroughly cool before covering/wrapping it.
                To restore the crust, reheat the desired amount in a medium oven for a few minutes. You can freeze it but the crust will still be soft unless you reheat. Thaw while still wrapped, to avoid condensation seeping into the bread.

                1. re: superkatie

                  I turn the oven down to 425 after I remove the lid. Don't cut the bread, as tempting as it is, until it's cool and don't cover/wrap it, even after cool. I put the cut side down on a cutting board and let it sit out.

                2. Did it not have a crust right out of the oven or after storage? It helps if you don't store it in something airtight that holds in moisture. Also, for a crispier crust, try a bread with no fat in the dough.