A couple years ago, Rich and I had a two-day staycation on Orcas Island. Having taken the first ferry to the island, we were hungry when we arrived, but didn’t want a sit-down breakfast. Instead, we wandered into Brown Bear Baking in Eastsound, and purchased a kalamata olive and rosemary bread. Tearing off chunks in-between sips of coffee, we discussed purchasing whether we should purchase one of their delectable pastries or another bread. In the end, we opted for an apricot and fig bread, which I used the following week for open-faced sandwiches with poached eggs on top, along with tomatoes, kale, and other goodies.
What makes Brown Bear Baking’s breads so amazing are their round shape with a chewy crust, and soft, tangy inside. I asked the bakers how they make their breads, and they shared the dough is proofed in baskets, and then baked in heavy cast-iron pots with lids.
Months later, when wandering through the Bellevue Goodwill, I spotted a large ceramic pot with a lid. The only problem was it had several small holes in the bottom for use as a berry strainer. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist buying it.
The first bread I made in the pot was ghastly. I used parchment paper to cover the holes on the bottom, and the light coating of olive oil I rubbed on the loaf, dripped through the holes, and smoked when it hit the heating element in the oven. The smoke made the bread taste terrible.
My second attempt was marginally better, but the crust was soft, and the inside of the bread wasn’t overly tasty.
Disgusted, I placed the pot in the living room as an art piece. This week, however, I did research on cooking bread in a ceramic or iron (dutch oven) pot. I found a simple recipe and gave it a try, placing a small piece of foil inside my pot to cover the holes, and a length of foil beneath the pot, just in case any oil drizzled out.
The result was nothing less than “wow!” Below is the recipe for what I’m calling my victory or “I finally figured it out” bread! I made some revisions to the recipe, using one-third whole wheat flour, and adding McCormick Everything Bagel Seasoning from Costco.
Mix and knead until smooth
- 2 cups white flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1½ cups of lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon everything bagel seasoning (coarse salt, dried onion and garlic, sesame and poppy seeds)
- 1½ teaspoons yeast
Shape into a round mound, and place on a well-floured counter or marble slab. Dust with flour then cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 8 to 18 hours.
Punch down, knead lightly, and then form into a mound. Let rest for 30 minutes.
Place ceramic pot and lid into a cold oven. Heat to 450°. Remove pot and carefully lift up dough with floured hands and place in pot. Drizzle oil over the top, and sprinkle on additional everything bagel seasoning. Cover the pot, and bake in oven for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid, and bake for another 15 minutes until brown.
Turn out onto a rack and enjoy!