1. When baking biscuits and bread, for best results always pre-heat your Dutch oven. Set the lid on a lid stand and place fresh briquets around the outside edge and 2-3 in the middle for about ten minutes before you place the bread in the Dutch. I also find it helpful to set my Dutch over a few coals to get it just warm to the touch before I place my biscuits or bread in it.
2. We like our cornbread with a very brown crust on the bottom, so I use about 7-8 briquets on the bottom. In addition I preheat the DO a little more than I would for biscuits or bread.
3. I get better leavening, both for yeast breads and quick breads, if I have all my ingredients at room temperature, especially liquids. Cold liquids retard the growth of yeast. Because double acting baking powder reacts to both heat and the addition of liquid, I find this helps my quick breads. I apply this method to my "basic sponge" when baking sourdough bread.
4. Always spin the lid on your Dutch when baking. On occasion the lid will hang up where the bail attaches to the oven and consequently the lid won't seal properly. Also, after your bread or biscuits have been baking for 15 minutes or so, pick the DO up and give it a quarter turn. This will insure that the bottom of whatever you're baking will brown evenly.
5. When baking start with briquets that have just turned ash gray in color. As a briquet burns, the heat output begins to decline. Since the temperature required to "brown" is relatively high, about 375°F, briquets that are not at their optimum heat output will make browning difficult.
6. Don't make a habit of taking the lid off the Dutch to see if the bread is done. This allows heat to escape and it may not build back up high enough or quick enough for the bread to brown. Give the recipe the required length of time. When you are able to detect a "done" smell emanating from the DO, you should be within 5-10 minutes of your bread being perfectly browned.
7. If you take the lid off or your briquets are getting a little tired, there is a fix. Add enough extra new briquets to cover the lid entirely. This is just like placing garlic bread under the broiler in your home oven. At this point there is a fairly fine line between browned and burnt. Don't let yourself get distracted!
8. To avoid your biscuits, cornbread, or desserts from getting soggy, if they're to stay in the Dutch until serving time, leave the lid off for a few minutes and allow the steam to escape. Otherwise, as the DO cools, this moisture will condense resulting in a soggy texture.
9. When cleaning bowls and utensils, soak and wash them first in cold water with a rubber scrubber to get off most of the flour and dough. If you start with hot water, it will partially cook the gluten in the flour and make it hard and sticky.
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