Somehow it seems fitting that the weekend after the UN releases their report on climate change, Minnesota experiences it’s coldest weekend in three years. The average low was around -10F each morning. Needless to say, I busied myself inside.
After last weekend’s adventue making bread, I found a different recipe:
It’s a loaf of Pane Rustica, a chewy, white peasant bread that was excellent. One twist is that it’s meant to be baked inside a dutch oven, so I ended up using one of my 5-quart cast iron ovens. I found the recipe at David Fankhauser’s Cheese Page, a collection of recipes for making everything from cheese to bread to root beer, all using simple, everyday kitchen tools. If you like making food from scratch, and you don’t like spending a lot of cash on equipment, this is the place for you. It’s like Alton Brown meets MacGyver.
Anyway, I made the bread recipe twice. The first time the dough was a sticky mess, and the bread ended up with a nice, crisp crust, and lots of air pockets in the bread. The dough didn’t rise that well, so the next time I made it, I used less water, and ended up with a dough that was easier to work with and rose better, but the resulting bread was much denser. It was still good, but not what I was looking for. Lesson learned…
The bread was one of a handful of recipes the wife and I made last weekend using some cast iron. Here’s the complete list as best I can remember:
- Choclate-chip pancakes for my son in a skillet
- Two loaves of Pane Rustica in the 5-quart dutch oven
- Cornbread in the skillet
- Chili in a 7-quart dutch oven
Cast Iron cookware is some of the most versatile, inexpensive and rugged stuff out there. It’s has it’s drawbacks, namely that it’s heavier than hell and it requires regular maintenance. You can’t throw it in the dishwasher, you shouldn’t use soap on it too often (if ever), and you can’t subject it to rapid changes in temperature. That said, it’s some of the few things in life that get better with age and repeated use, and if you take proper care of it, you’ll be able to pass it down to your grandchildren.
There are many brands of cast iron out there, but the stuff I prefer is made by Lodge. Here’s a picture of my collection:
From front to back:
- Lodge Wok, Lodge 12-inch skillet
- Lodge 7-quart dutch oven, Lodge 10-inch skillet
- Lodge 5-quart dutch oven, Lodge 5-quart dutch oven.
Cast iron cookare can be found in many places including most big-box housewares store, some DIY stores (Fleet Farm in the Upper Midwest), sporting goods/outdoors stores and other places like Amazon. While you can find good deals on eBay and elsewhere online, keep in mind that cast iron cookware is heavy, so watch out for the shipping costs. Amazon used to sell a ‘Cast Iron Cooking for Dummies’ set that included a book, a 5-quart dutch oven and 10-inch skillet for around $55. Since it was listed as a book, it used to qualify for free shipping, which was a deal. It now appears that Amazon has wised up, and while the set still qualifies for free shipping, it’s now almost $90, which isn’t such a deal. Finding them locally, especially if you can use a discount coupon of some sort is the way to go.