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Debbie Sharp Loeb, teacher by training but full-time mom to a disabled son, craftsperson, bead artist, great cook, creative homemaker & terrific spotter of cool new products for everything under the sun, presents Hodgepodge: recipes, household hints, stories about children, friends & relatives, cool stuff, music, & much more.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

A-Pass-Along (A question about Rustic Bakers)

The following is an email I received from Rev. Sue Doohan of Hearthstone Ministries and I told her I'd post her question as a Pass-Along.

"I cook and bake outside on a propane grill most of the summer and inside over an open fire most of the winter. Do any readers have experience with this? Cooking seems pretty much the same except there's less temperature control so you have to watch the pot more. Baking has been a challenge. Inside in the dutch oven, it's hard to get stuff to brown on the top and outside under the grill lid it's hard to get browning on the bottom. Also, things take longer to bake on both the hearth and grill. The old wives' wisdom is a "low" oven is one you can lay your hand atop, a "medium oven" is one you can touch without damage, but you wouldn't want to leave you hand resting on the lid, and a "hot" oven you don't want to touch at all. I'm finding I can turn out good quality and "done" baked goods, but their appearance isn't what it would be done in a conventional oven. Your thoughts?"

I told her I had never cooked in a Dutch oven and she sent along the following:

"If your Dutch Oven has feet, you can use it on the stovetop like a dutchoven. I would set it over a low fire or beside a hot fire and I would pull out come healthy but not flaming embers to put on top of the lid. You will essentially be using it as a slowcooker (sitting beside the heat you use for cooking other things) or the bottom rack of a conventional oven (because what you're baking will be near the heat source). When I use mine as a slow cooker, I'm cooking all day over the flames and the oven sits on a large rock which conducts heat as close to the flame as the pot can be without touching the flame. It works just like any other slow cooker in about the same time but you need to turn it occasional for even cooking. When I bake in the dutch oven, I put it on top of low flames, put a rack in the bottom of the pot so there's air space between what I'm baking and the heat source, and keep embers covering the lid. It usually takes a bit longer than the time a recipe calls for ... sort of like if your recipe calls for 350 but you're baking something that calls for 300 at the same time.

Here's another rustic lore I follow ... I only use dry salt to clean my cast iron cookware. First you wipe out as much as you can, then sprinkle a generous amount of salt on the bottom of the pan, then "scour" the rest off with the salt. When your're done (the salt gets dark gray), you dump that out, wipe off the residue and then wipe on oil or melted fat and oila` a virtually non-stick pan."
I thought Kosher salt might work well as it is coarser.

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