By now we are all familiar with the no-knead method of baking bread in a cast iron dutch oven. The main purpose of this is to create an environment as close to a professional oven as possible. When the lid is on, the preheated cast iron pot enables the high moisture bread to 'self-steam' and allows for close-in radiant heat. This helps the bread in its initial rise (also called 'oven spring') and to create a wonderfully crackly crust.
But what if you don't have a dutch oven, or you find them too heavy and cumbersome? Or maybe you want to continue to use an old favorite recipe that has a lower moisture content than the no-knead versions? Teresa Greenway of the website/blog Northwest Sourdough has discovered a technique that achieves the same (some might even say better) results as a dutch oven: The Roasting Lid Method with Barley Malt Spray.
What you'll need: A baking stone for your oven, the lid from a basic roasting pan, a sprayer bottle filled with a mixture of 7 oz warm water and .5 oz malt syrup.
Method: With the baking stone and roasting lid inside, preheat your oven to 450° for at least an hour. Have your spray bottle ready. When it's time to bake your loaves, slide them off your peel into the oven. Immediately spritz them with several hits of the water/malt mixture and cover with the hot lid. Bake for 15 minutes after which the lid is removed and the oven temperature lowered to 425° for the remainder of the baking. You can see the complete method demoed in this video, below.
• The old fashioned roasting pans used here can often be found in thrift stores for just a few dollars, if not less. Amazon carries several sizes as well, most which are under $20.00. If you feel the lid isn't high enough, use the base (although it won't have the useful handle.)
• Barley malt syrup can be found in most natural food stores or online. According to Teresa's blog, the barley malt adds color and seems to create a thinner, crisper texture. Be sure to empty the spray bottle of the mixture and rinse it well, warns Teresa, as the malt syrup will begin to mold.
• Fans of bread baking and sourdoughs in particular should check out Teresa Greenway's website and blog. She's been baking, experimenting and posting her results online for several years and there's a lot of good information there.
Related: Food Science: What is Sourdough?
(Image: Northwest Sourdough)