You may be familar with the term Dutch Oven as most of us have a big pot in our kitchens called a Dutch Oven. If made of cast iron, it is made to be used as a small oven over a wood fire.
Back in the early days, they would make a bed of coals and rest the oven on top of the coals to heat & bake, replenishing the coals when needed. The Dutch oven has little legs to rest on the coals. It also has a lid with a large lip to place coals on top for heat to be even all around the oven. Anything can be baked or roasted in these little ovens; pies, custards, roasts, whole chickens, beans. I haven't tried to bake a cake or bread as the heat is hard to keep at even temp.
Cast iron has fallen out of favor because it was actually made for the wood fire & we just don't cook on open fire anymore. Although, I believe EVERYTHING tastes better cooked over wood. (except coffee). Cast iron does take care to oil & season it (bake with coating of shortening to preserve surface & keep from rusting) & it is HEAVY. There is a reason for the thick contruction & weight which one does not realize until you use it on a wood fire. The thick, heavy walls make for even heat distribution! So began my devotion to my 2 cast iron Dutch ovens.
But, always being impatient, I devised a new method of baking in the Dutch oven that takes less monitoring & time waiting for coals to be ready.
- Ready the oven by placing three flat stones in the bottom of the oven for air spacers. This will help keep from burning the bottom of whatever you are baking.
- Line the oven with foil if you are baking something which may have sugar boiling over.
- Put on lid, hang empty oven over newly started fire to "Preheat",
- Notice the flame roaring & touching the bottom of the oven in the pic, only allow this to happen during preheating. If done during baking, flame touching the bottom will surely burn the dish!
- As the fire cooks down, the flame will subside. At this time remove the lid and put in your pie or other dish that is in a regular metal pie plate or baking dish.
- Place the oven back over the fire, making sure that the flame does not touch the oven.
- Check on your pie every 15 min or so to make sure the heat isn't too low or high. Also rotate the oven for even cooking.
- After about 30 min, you should have some large coals in the bottom of the fire which you can now place on top of the oven to brown the top of the pie. This will happen quickly, so keep an eye on it and using a stoker for the fire (these are actually made to make lifting of the top easy) to lift off the top to view the contents.
- Baking time is pretty much the same as a conventional oven, about 40 min. total.
- Remove oven from heat and remove lid to cool pie inside or keep lid on to keep warm till eating.
- To clean your oven, place on hot fire empty to bake off spillover in bottom or fill with hot water and scrub with wire brush. If using soapy water, you will have to re-oil it to keep from rusting. Also, keep dry with paper towel inside & cover and store away from moisture.
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