Using cast iron for baking stone? + other rustic tips?

lpinkmountainMarch 9, 2012

I'm having a bit of trouble baking the kinds of bread loaves I would like, and I am trying to work with whatever I already have around the kitchen to improve things. Please don't suggest that I buy anything, I cannot afford to spend ANY money on non-essentials right now, no matter how inexpensive they might seem to you. My fridge went out and my oven went out this winter, both needing replacement and I'm out of work right now so have zero income. Times are tight.

So, can I use the cast iron grill from our small Weber grill like a bread stone? It's very thick and doesn't have large gaps between the rungs. Or can I use the 10 inch cast iron frypan I got for Christmas like a bread stone? I think I read somewhere (maybe here) that you could use cast iron griddles in your oven like a bread stone so I'm wondering if I can get some of the effect using the grill.

Here's what the grill looks like:

If either of those will work at all, what can I put the bread on to bake it? I have some glass corningware type dishes, some cheapie metal bread pans (steel coated with nonstick), some small round cast iron pans (not pots though), some stainless steel baking trays (one round for pizza and one square) and some heavy gage steel baking trays. Also have parchment paper.

And what about moisture? I know traditionally you cover the bread, but is that necessary? Can I put a bowl of water in the oven? And what are the dos and don'ts of covering your loaf? I have some breads in my bread machine cookbook that are described as "country" and use the french bread cycle but don't mention covering since Beth says to bake them in the machine. I hate the hole the paddle makes in bread baked in the machine so I try to bake in the oven if I can.

Also, what temp. to bake at?

I'm anxious to try some bread today, as I finally have my new oven so am back to baking.

Thanks for the tips!

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Oh, and here's the recipe I'm starting with, from "The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook" by Beth Hensperger

Peasant Bread

1.5 lb. loaf

1 1/8 cup water
2 TBLSP olive oil
3 1/4 cups bread flour (I used 2 1/4 cups white and one cup whole wheat bread flour. Yes, both were bread flours)
2 tsp. gluten
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. bread machine yeast

Honestly, I'm wondering if next time I should just use 2 tsp. yeast. Her breads are kinda yeasty if you ask me.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 1:55PM
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I certainly understand not having money to spend. Sure, you can use either or both. The grate is meant to take much higher than oven temps so it will be fine. Just use parchment paper to let the bread rise on then transfer paper to grate. With the cast iron pan you can do either the parchment paper or just put it in the pan without. I like to bake bread at high temps so I max out the oven, but whatever you're comfortable with will work. Lots of people like to put the water in oven when first goes into the very hot oven for steam and oven spring. Ice cubes are easy to use for that. Can have the heated pan for the ice in oven then easy to throw cubes in. Oh, I wouldn't worry about covering. I have done both and it really made very little difference. I do remember to slash when I make free form loaves though. I don't generally use pans for bread, but that's your choice. Could just set pans on the grate if you want to go that way.

As for the yeast, sure maybe even halve the yeast. Might take a bit longer to rise, might not. Lots of recipes these days use a half teaspoon of yeast. Of course those are generally the long rise breads.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 2:27PM
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I do it all the time, using my CI griddles. I do don't do anything different, same temperature, and no added humidity.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 8:07PM
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I agree, cast iron will do just fine, as will your stainless steel baking sheets, either round or square.

I have baked in a cast iron pan, preheated. I've put my cheap Sam's Club baking sheets (aluminum, 2/$10, made in the US) in the oven at 500F until they were very hot and placed free form loaves on them, but it's easier to use parchment paper than just put the dough on the hot sheet. I do put the dough rounds directly on the hot sheet for pita bread, though.

I just put a baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and toss some ice cubes on there for moisture, or I spray the sides and the hot racks and pans with a spray bottle of water, either works.

Happy Baking!


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 8:26PM
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Well, here is the results of my first attempt. I used a Corningware two quart casserole dish, and put it on the cast iron grill which I had set on the bottom rung of the oven. Not sure if the grill made any difference. First I was going to bake the bread in the casserole with the cover on, but during the last rise, it rose all the way up to the top of the lid. Then, when I went to slash the bread, it deflated. Not sure how to do the slashing without deflating. So I let it rise 15 more minutes after the deflating. As you can see, there really isn't much of the slashes present. It rose a little but not as much as it had before, so I was able to put the lid back on, but it still rose up in the oven to meet the lid so I took the lid off the last part of the baking.

So I ended up trying to add moisture to the oven by putting a cake pan full of water on the bottom rung of the oven. Not sure how much of it evaporated. I used a 450 degree oven for the first 40 min. and turned down to 350 for the last 10. I also painted the bread with water before putting it into the oven. When I first took the bread out of the oven, the crust sounded as hard as a cracker. In fact I thought I had overbaked it. But as it cooled the crust got soft and although it was a nice crust, it wasn't very thick and chewy. This bread turned out more like your average loaf, just round.

Also, Also it tasted good but yeasty, like all the recipes from that book.

Next try I am going to break the dough in half and put in two of the casseroles (I have two). In my "Laurel's Kitchen" cookbook she says to pour 1/4 cup of water over the bread before putting it into the oven in a covered casserole. I think I will be able to do that if I use the two casseroles, each with half the dough in them. I'm still not sure if the cast iron grill contributed much to the baking so not sure if I should use that or not. Also I think I might use slightly less yeast, as the bread from that cookbook always tastes too yeasty to me.

Here's a photo of the bread. Oh, and also, the top got browner than the sides, which makes sense since they were inside the thick corningware casserole.

And here is the bread sliced, with some beans soup with escarole. Boy, that soup was delicious, I had never had cooked escarole before, and I LOVE it! Thanks you "Greens" Cookalong!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 12:05PM
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It all looks yummy to me, L.

I'd try that loaf free form, right on the cast iron instead of inside the casserole, I think the crust is better that way and it's the only way I've ever gotten that crusty bread that "talks" as it cools.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 6:02PM
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Having eaten the bread, I can say that it is just OK. Not chewy at all. Not sure if it was the recipe or baking method.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 12:25PM
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I have only had crunchy chewey success with the overnight no knead method that ends up in a preheated enclosed baking device such as a cast iron or ceramic dutch oven. I have also used an Aluminum fish fryer that doesn't hold a lot of heat with middling success.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 2:22PM
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