a woman holds a stock pot and baking stone for making sourdough bread without a dutch oven

How to Bake Sourdough Bread Without a Dutch Oven

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Sourdough bread baking has become popular whether you’re Suzy homemaker or a commuting CEO for 70 hours per week. You don’t have to look far on any social media platform these days to find pictures and video showing new techniques, recipes and even art for making this artisan style bread. The great news is that you don’t need many ingredients, you don’t have to be a professional bread baker and you need very few kitchen tools including a heavy cast iron Dutch oven. Here’s how you can bake your own sourdough bread without the use of a dutch oven at all.

A woman holds a stock pot and baking stone to make sourdough bread without a dutch oven

Why Use A Dutch Oven for Sourdough Bread

How does a Dutch oven help make sourdough bread? What is it’s purpose? There are two phases of baking when making sourdough bread. The first phase is the steam phase and is meant to hold steam within the dutch oven space. Simply put, the purpose of a dutch oven is to trap steam in the first phase of baking. Because steam carries heat better than the dough itself, it allows the dough to rise faster than it would otherwise. This is important because within the first 20 minutes of baking, the crust will be set rising will cease. The first 20 minutes of steam time is very important for sourdough bread.

During the second phase of baking, the lid is removed and the outside of the bread becomes a crusty golden brown we all know and love while the inside continues to bake completely.

The easiest way to imitate the role of a a dutch oven is to create another steamy environment using kitchen tools you already have at home.

How to Create a Steamy Environment without a Dutch Oven

Without a large Dutch oven you can still create a similar steamy environment.

1. One option is to use a baking stone such as a pizza stone or baking sheet and a tall oven safe pot or roasting pan to cover the bread as it bakes. You could even use a large cast iron skillet with a stock pot over the top! As long as it’s oven safe and a good heat conductor, it should work.

2. Similar to this idea, you can also place the bread dough into a preheated roasting pan and place a preheated baking stone or baking sheet on top for the steam phase.

3. Even better than water is using lava rocks to create steam along with baking on a preheated baking stone.

Water will also help create steam in the hot oven so a casserole dish filled half full of hot water and placed under the bread can help too.

Another option that people can also do is to put some ice cubes right next to the rising bread. This in itself will not be enough steam to help the rise completely, but it can encourage an already steamy environment.

Whole wheat einkorn sourdough bread made without a dutch oven sits cut on a counter

Start with an Active Sourdough Starter

A good sourdough bread starts before you begin to even make your dough. In order to get a good rise, you’ll first want to make sure your starter has been refreshed recently and is bubbly and happy. You can see how I make my einkorn flour sourdough starter HERE.

Because einkorn likes a more flour rich environment for the organisms to feed on, I tend to keep it cake muffin batter thickness (pretty thick) and then thin it down to a pancake batter consistency when it’s time to mix the dough together.

While waiting for the oven to heat, fold the dough and then transfer to a floured banneton basket or steep sided bowl to encourage a tall form.

How to Bake Sourdough Bread without a Dutch Oven

Start to finish, here’s step-by-step instructions on how to use a baking sheet and large pot to make sourdough bread.

First, when the dough is 45 to 60 minutes away from finishing it’s rise time, turn your oven on to preheat. Usually recipes will call for very high temperatures to create a good bread rise. Steam and heat work together to create a good oven spring so remember you need both. Place both your baking stone or sheet pan (for better results use a stone) and your stock pot or oven proof pot in the oven to also preheat. Make sure your oven racks are low enough to accommodate a pot.

Now that it’s time to put your dough into the oven to bake. Be aware that opening the oven allows heat to escape. That’s one unfortunate fact of the home oven is it’s inability to hold high heat like professional baker ovens. Counteract this by only opening the oven when you absolutely need to and never leave it open. Use oven mitts to take out your baking sheet and quickly place your parchment paper (if using) along with the bread dough on the pan. Score the dough and mist with a spray bottle of water if desired. Cover with the hot stock pot. Return to the oven and follow the instructions for baking your steam phase. usually this is 20-30 minutes.

At this point, remove the pot and allow the bread to complete the rest of it’s cooking time.

I use einkorn flour for all my sourdough breads because of it’s high nutrition and ability to be eaten by sensitive tummies. Because this ancient grain is high in protein and nutrients, and has a much weaker gluten structure and its much more dense than modern wheat. This means it doesn’t puff up as much as your common loaf, but still tastes superb and is considered one of the healthiest grains. Check out my einkorn sourdough recipe for beginners HERE.

a baking sheet is held ready to bake sourdough bread

Baking Sourdough Bread Using a Roasting Pan and Baking Stone

This option is very close to the above technique except it requires you to put the bread into a roasting pan instead of simply on a stone or baking sheet. The plus side to this steam method is that roasting pans do tend to be quite a bit lighter than a heavy cast iron dutch oven!

Remember to preheat the oven well, especially since you’re not using a heat conductor like the dutch oven. It’s very important that you have consistent high temperature throughout the cooking process.

When you have maintained a nice high oven temperature for 30 minutes or so and the bread is fully proofed, quickly take the roasting pan out with oven mitts and insert parchment paper in the pan before the dough. Score the bread dough and mist it if desired. Add 3-4 ice cubes and place in the oven before covering with a baking stone.

Note: For best results, during preheating, add in a casserole dish of hot water below where your roasting dish will sit on the oven rack.

Baking Sourdough Bread Using Lava Rocks

I must admit I personally haven’t tried using lava rocks but many conclude they are excellent at producing the steam needed to recreate the Dutch oven. To use lava rocks, first preheat the rocks in a cast iron skillet in the oven while also preheating a baking stone.

After preheating, remove the baking stone. Place parchment paper and the dough on the stone, score it and return to the oven as quickly as possible to keep everything hot. When your steam phase ends, remove the lava stones in the cast iron skillet from the oven and place them on the stove top. Be careful of steam burns!

Continue baking the the bread for the second phase until thoroughly cooked through and the outside has a good crust formation.

Other tips to Help make Amazing Sourdough Bread

Whole wheat ancient grain bread sourdough bread on a baking sheet in the oven.
  • The perfect crispy crust is more likely if you can seal the ovens work at the end of baking. “Cure” the crust by leaving the oven door ajar to the room temperature air for 5-10 minutes after baking, before removing the finished bread. This allows the temperature to come down gradually, thus helping the crust hold it’s crispiness.
  • Karyn Lynn Newman, Author of Sourdough by Science, teaches that when deciding if the bread is done, know chestnut to cocoa colored crust will give the most flavor. Her book is a great one by the way!
  • If your bread is dark on the bottom after baking, try moving the rack away from the heating element whether that’s up or down.

More Recipes for Sourdough Bread

From one home baker to another, I hope you enjoy!

Easy Sourdough Bread Recipe with Einkorn Flour

How to Make a Wholegrain Rustic Boule with Einkorn

Whole Wheat Einkorn Sourdough Pizza Dough Recipe

More Posts on Sourdough and Baking

All About Einkorn Flour: What You Need to Know

Emmer Flour and Einkorn Flour: The Qualities of Ancient Wheat

Does Einkorn Cause Inflammation? Gluten Free and Autoimmune Disorders

What is The Best Bread for Acid Reflux and Heartburn

I hope you find success using these tips. Do you have another way you bake sourdough without a dutch oven? I’d love to hear!

From the Hilltop,


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