Dutch Oven Soda Bread

BBQ, bushcraft, camping Add comments

Sometimes…

…it’s time to shake it up a bit and try something new.

…you have an itch to scratch.

…you just want to do something different.

…you just wanna burn stuff.

 

That time was a few weeks ago. Having received a small open BBQ and bought a heavy cast iron dutch oven, I wanted to do something with them. Nothing too involved just yet. This was, after all, the first time I would use the dutch oven. But just something a bit different.

At Christmas, we have a tradition of making an oat based soda bread and serving this with homemade potted pork and/or smoked salmon. The bread is very easy to make, incredibly tasty and requires no yeast or even kneading. As such, it’s great for lazy people like me. Experience told me that this would be a great project just to get started with. Experience was right.

The Dutch Oven

Basically a Dutch Oven is a large heavy cast iron pan with a lid that can go directly on an open fire and is used to cook things. Things like stews, roasting meat or even bread. Made famous by the Settlers in the American West and now used not so much. Which is a shame.

They are seen as hard work, requiring seasoning and special care. A pain to clean and maintain. Well yes, and maybe no. Once you’ve used them a couple of times and understand that cleaning should be done after use, and not three days later, then life becomes much easier.

Cooking with them may require a bit of muscle but thats ok, the type of food you are going to cook will have plenty of calories in it and you needed that work out anyway.

Cooking with them outdoors, can be done on gas but that just isn’t fun.

Cooking with them outdoors is done on real fire, with real burning wood. Thats fun that is.

Cooking with them outdoors requires a few extra skills and some planning for sure. Skills that are easy to acquire and very valuable. Probably you already have them (and if not – then I’ll post something about those soon so you can learn  too):

  • Fire Lighting
  • Fire Building

The Fire

There is a lot to write about fires and what type fire is best for which job. I’ll skip a lot of that here as most of the heat we need for soda bread comes from embers and not open fire. In fact, at a pinch and not as much fun, you could bake soda bread using BBQ briquettes. But you really wouldn’t do that, would you? Missing out on all that smokyness. That would be a sin!

Briquettes on top of Dutch Oven

Briquettes under stand of Dutch Oven

The recipe

This is not my recipe. I got it from the following link:

Soda Bread Recipe

The link contains a lot of information about how & why it works without yeast and all that good stuff. Even if you only make it in a regular oven – it’s still a good bread to make.

HINT – do not overwork the mixing. Read the recipe closely and understand what it does.

That all said – this is what it looks like before it goes on the fire:

Dough mixed an in the pot

The Bake

This is where it gets a bit tricky so take note…

Heat on top and (too much) below.

When I did it, I had way too much heat on the bottom of the oven. This made the bread burn on it’s underside. So what would I do different?

The BBQ I used was too small. This really limited the sort of fire I could build and amount of coals I could use. Limited is perhaps the wrong word, I had too many. Normally, there would be a fire to one side and coals would be taken from that and placed on and under the oven away from the main heat of the fire.

Because of the limited space – I had way too much heat in a small space. I know that now. As to how much heat to use initially, here is a little snapshot from a great little book I bought:

Fuel guide for Dutch Oven

Pencil figures are temperatures in degrees Celsius.

The Result

Well…

The results speak for themselves:

Fresh Soda Bread still in the oven.

Freshly cut Soda Bread

It tasted really good warm with butter. Even the burnt bits were not too bad:)

Summary

Cooking using a Dutch Oven is fun and flexible

Learn to control heat and be aware that more is not always better

Cleaning the Dutch Oven should be done as soon as is practical and don’t be afraid to re-season it.

 

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