Friday, July 10, 2015

Home-Baked Sesame Seed Artisan Bread

Mrs Chef and Sommelier loves to bake and the family is fortunate to have freshly baked bread and pastry for our daily breakfasts and sometimes for dinner starters.  Over the years, after much research and experiments, she had adapted recipes that made use of cast iron Dutch ovens or casseroles to bake her artisan breads to great success.

Artisan breads baked by professional bakers have features like great crumb, airiness, unbelievable flavour and a desirable crackling crust. To get that kind of a crust, professionals use powerful steam-injected ovens which are too pricey an investment for regular home bakers. But the good news for amateur home bakers is, you too can achieve such shatteringly crunchy and delicious crust using cast iron casseroles or heavy ceramic pots.

When heated up, the thick cast iron sides of a Dutch oven hold and radiate enormous energy just like the walls of your regular oven but in a smaller enclosed space. This allows the bread to absorb the heat much better during the baking process.

Another crucial factor in bread baking is humidity. Moist air transfers heat much more efficiently than dry air. Therefore a humid baking environment increases the heat energy transfer rate between the oven and the loaf of bread. When the wet bread dough is placed in a hot, covered cast iron dutch oven, the crust develops in a moist, enclosed environment. The cast iron pot is now a smaller oven within an oven, and that oven has plenty of steam in it. This develops the crust ideally.

With the science behind the bread baking in a cast iron pot explained, I am sure you are excited. So let's get started with this basic sesame seed bread recipe, which is one of my favourite at home, by Mrs C&S.

Recipe adapted from 'Tartine Bread' by Chad Robertson.


Water                                 300 gm
Starter/Levain                    70 gm (Natural yeast starter)
Bread Flour                        350 gm
Sesame seeds (toasted)      50 gm


Note: The amount of water relative to the flour is called the hydration percentage.  Dough made with 60 gm of water and 100 gm of flour is 60 percent hydration.  Thus, the amount of water is 60 percent of the weight of the flour.  This is a 86% hydration recipe.  You can adjust the water accordingly, as long as it maintains the overall water content. For first timers trying out this recipe, I will suggest using a 75% hydration and slowly increase the hydration when you are more comfortable in handling the dough.)

Add 70 gm of starter to the water and stir to disperse.

Add 350gm of flour to the water and mix throughly until you do not see any bits of dry flour.  Let the dough rest for 25 to 30 mins.   Working with the nature of the dough, the resting period allows the protein and starch in the flour to absorb the water, swell, and then relax into a cohesive mass.

After the resting period, add 7gm of salt and 18gm of warm water to the dough. Incorporate the salt by squeezing the dough between your fingers.

Add toasted sesame seed. Using the stretch and fold technique, stretch and fold the dough.

Repeat stretch and fold method every 30 minutes for 6 times (3 hours).

Transfer the dough to a floured proofing basket.  Leave it to proof in the fridge overnight.  (I usually let it proof for at least 6 hours)

Preheat the oven to 260C with a cast iron casserole for about 30 minutes.

Place the dough in the cast iron casserole and cover it.  Immediately reduce the temperature to 240C. Bake the loaf for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, open the oven and remove the casserole cover.  Continue to bake the bread in the casserole until the crust is golden brown, 20 - 25 minutes.


  1. Hi Alvin! And Hi Mrs Alvin! :)

    That's a lovely bread and I love this sort of artisan bread. But somehow am still afraid of trying to bake bread! This is very interesting to me, baking the bread in a dutch oven in the oven. Do we need to oil the bottom of the dutch oven? Will the bread stick? And if the dough is left to prove in the fridge, do we need to bring to room temperature before baking?

    1. Hi Hi PH! Sorry for the late reply.

      No, you do no have to oil the dutch oven and it wouldn't stick when fully baked.

      Again no, you do not need to bring the dough to room temperature before baking!

      Easy isn't it? Have fun my friend!

  2. This is beautiful! I love this kind of bread!

  3. Looks great! Never knew you could bake bread in that!

    1. Hi Fern! Now you know... bring out the cast iron pots!

  4. May I know the size of the cast oven pot you'd used?

  5. HI THere, nice bread. We hv to cover the lid of the French oven right? I saw that the black knob only sustain 190deg, but you used it as High as 240deg with no prob?

    1. Hi! Yes, stainless steel knob is preferred for such high temperature baking. I had mentioned it here in another bread recipe post: ->
      Thanks for highlighting.


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