Dutch Oven Cornbread
If you like baking in an oven – you should give baking in a dutch oven a try. While it definitely requires a bit more work, it is amazing how fabulous it bakes bread – and it will give you a greater appreciation for your 21st century oven. I had the chance this weekend to take a cooking class at Living History Farms, and learn how to cook and bake in a dutch oven over an open hearth – just like they did in the 1800s.
The weather was perfect. The first true spring day we have had here in Iowa. It was just warm enough, about 70 degrees, completely sunny and not at all windy. The perfect recipe for a great day of outdoor cooking.
We started our class by making Indian Meal Cakes, which is essentially cornbread, using a dutch oven. I love cast-iron cooking, but have never baked before in a dutch oven over an open fire. I was amazed at how well the dutch oven worked for baking.
The corn bread recipe was pretty simple. Basically, we just stirred together corn meal, flour butter, salt, hot water and an egg. Then we added a bunch of milk to moisten the batter, stirred in baking powder to help it rise and added some sugar for a bit of sweetness. Then we dumped the batter into a well greased dutch oven, and covered it with a lid.
The dutch oven cooking process was interesting. We took some of the coals out of the fire and placed them on the stone hearth. The dutch oven has three legs on the bottom, and we set it over the hot coals. Then we took more hot coals and placed them on top the pot. Finally, we covered the top of the coals with soot to help insulate the heat.
Then we let it bake for about 40 minutes.
Checking if the bread is done is a little trickier in a dutch oven. It’s not as easy as opening the door of your oven and sticking a toothpick in your quick bread. With the dutch oven, you had to first carefully remove the coals and ash from the top of the pan to avoid getting it on your bread. We did this only to see the bread was not quite done, so we had to re-do the coals all over again to keep baking it.
But it’s definitely worth the effort. The corn bread came out tender and delicious. We also made an onion bread, which was even better. Sorry I don’t have any pictures of that recipe. I was too busy eating it – that I forgot to take a picture. Take my word for it – it was delicious! I’ll bake the onion bread again sometime and post that recipe when I’m able to restrain myself enough to get a photo to go with the post.
In the meantime, here’s the recipe for the corn bread. It’s adapted from The American Frugal Housewife, which is available for free through Project Gutenberg. The original version uses different quantities – and molasses.
I’m guessing you could adapt this to a conventional oven pretty easily. I’d try baking it at 350 or 375 for 40 minutes.