Maximize Your Sourdough Rise: Using a Dutch Oven with Skillet Lid for Perfect Boule Bread

baking bread in a Dutch oven with a skillet lid

Baking the perfect sourdough bread is a combination of art and science, and achieving that beautiful oven spring is one of the key aspects of getting it just right. Many bakers turn to a skillet combo cooker to help with this process. The typical method involves using the shallow pan as the base and the deeper pan as the lid. This setup not only makes it easier to transport the dough onto the pan but also simplifies scoring the dough and removing the bread when it's done.

But what if you don't have a skillet combo cooker? No problem! You can achieve the same results using a Dutch oven with a skillet lid. Here's how you can do it:

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Prepare Your Dough: Follow your favorite sourdough recipe to prepare your dough. Allow it to ferment and shape it into a boule (round) loaf.

  2. Preheat Your Dutch Oven: Preheat your oven to the desired temperature, usually around 450°F (230°C). Place your Dutch oven with the skillet lid inside the oven to preheat as well. This is crucial for achieving good oven spring.

  3. Set Up the Dutch Oven: Once preheated, carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Flip it upside down so that the shallow lid becomes the base and the pot becomes the lid. This setup mimics the combo cooker, providing the same benefits but with more room for the dough to rise.

  4. Transfer the Dough: Gently place your shaped dough onto the shallow skillet lid. The shallow base makes it easier to transport the dough and allows for easy scoring.

  5. Score the Dough: Using a sharp blade or lame, score the top of the dough. This helps control the expansion of the loaf during baking, ensuring a beautiful rise and crust.

  6. Cover and Bake: Carefully place the deep pot (now the lid) over the dough. This creates a sealed environment that traps steam, essential for achieving that perfect oven spring. Bake for the first 20 minutes with the lid on.

  7. Finish Baking: After 20 minutes, remove the lid to allow the crust to brown and crisp up. Continue baking for another 20-25 minutes or until the bread has a deep golden-brown color and sounds hollow when tapped.

  8. Cool and Enjoy: Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack. Cooling is important as it allows the interior to set properly.

Why This Method Works

Using the Dutch oven with a skillet lid flipped upside down provides several benefits:

  • Better Oven Spring: The tight seal traps steam, which is essential for the initial rise of the bread.
  • Ease of Handling: The shallow base makes it easier to transfer and score the dough.
  • Higher Rise: The deeper lid (now the base) gives the dough more room to expand, resulting in a higher rise, perfect for a boule loaf.
  • Versatility: Besides bread, you can still use the Dutch oven as intended for cooking stews, braises, and more.
sourdough bread in a cast iron dutch oven with a frying pan lid


Baking sourdough bread at home can be incredibly rewarding, and with the right tools and techniques, you can achieve bakery-quality results. Using a Dutch oven with a skillet lid flipped upside down is a fantastic alternative to a skillet combo cooker. It offers all the benefits of achieving a perfect oven spring and a high-rise loaf, making your homemade sourdough not just a delight to eat but also a joy to bake.

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