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Easy Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread

(courtesy of Dennis Golden and Lodge Cast Iron Nation: Great American Cooking from Coast to Coast by Lodge Manufacturing Co./Oxmoor House. Makes one 12-inch loaf. Photo by Helene Dujardin)

This recipe is from Dennis Golden. To make this, you need sourdough starter, which must be started 4 to 5 days ahead of when you want to bake your bread. If you're in a hurry, you can buy packaged starter at most specialty food or kitchenware stores or online and follow the directions.

Sourdough Starter

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2½ cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)

Sourdough Bread

4 to 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 (¼-ounce) package active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)

¼ cup lukewarm water (about 80 degrees F)

2½ tablespoons corn or canola oil or melted vegetable shortening

2 tablespoons sugar

1½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

Nonstick cooking spray

Make sourdough starter: Combine the flour and water in a large glass jar or sturdy plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Cover tightly, and set in a warm (but not hot) place for 4 to 5 days before using.

Make sourdough bread: In a large plastic or glass bowl, mix 1 cup of the sourdough starter with 4 cups of the flour. Stir in as much water as is needed to reach a mixable, semiliquid consistency. Cover and set in a 120 degree F oven until the mixture is active and foamy, 45 to 60 minutes or more. In a small bowl, combine the yeast with the lukewarm water to activate. Stir in the oil, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Stir this into the sourdough mixture once it gets foamy.

Coat the inside of a 12-inch cast iron Dutch oven with cooking spray (including the inside of the lid). Wipe with a paper towel. Set the pot in the oven, and preheat it to 120 degrees F.

While the pot heats, add more flour as needed to the sourdough mixture to form a dough that is stiff enough to turn out onto a floured board. Knead and turn the dough, adding more flour as necessary, until it is stiff enough to form a round loaf and quits sticking to your hands. Don't over-knead the dough; that can hamper the rising process. Transfer the dough to the prepared and preheated Dutch oven. Gently push the loaf out to the edge of the pot. It should come only halfway up the side of the Dutch oven, or even less. Cover with the lid, and place in the warm oven to rise.

When the dough has risen to nearly the top of the pot (after about 45 minutes), turn the oven temperature to 375 degrees F (yes, the dough is in the oven as it is preheating), and bake until golden brown, about 1 hour and 15 or 20 minutes.

Turn the loaf out onto a board or towel. Let it cool a bit, then slice and enjoy.