Dutch Oven Frugality

Dutch Oven Bread

My husband has taken up bread baking recently, for which I am grateful. I eat a lot of bread—a lot of bread—and it was getting expensive. At my local market, the Della Fattoria loaves I love are eight dollars each. At the pace my household consumes them, that’s a $1,200-a-year habit.

Like a lot of people, we are also trying to eat more whole grains, and I was having a hard time finding whole-grain loaves I liked. Inexplicably, most bakers put honey in them, which ruins the taste for me. So Doug began baking.

To urge him on, I bought him Jim Lahey’s book, My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method. Lahey’s peculiar technique calls for baking the loaves in a lidded vessel, like a Dutch oven. We didn’t have a pot the right size, so this project to save money on bread was going to require a costly new piece of cookware.

Which explains why there was a shiny, new cocoa-colored enameled Dutch oven on our kitchen island recently. Doug found it at Shackford’s, the local kitchenware store, and it was close to ideal, heavy as a sack of potatoes, with sloped sides and a slightly rounded bottom that would give the desired shape to his loaves.

My first thought: What a handsome piece of Le Creuset. My second thought: What a lot of money. Did Doug at least go to the Le Creuset outlet, which isn’t far from our house? Then I turned it over and noticed the mark: Lodge.

I have always associated Lodge with the clunky cast-iron skillets that people use for frying chicken or cooking over a campfire. I didn’t know the company even made enameled cast iron. The cookware is produced in China, which might give some consumers pause, but as Doug pointed out, the Chinese invented porcelain. They probably know something about applying it.

Judging by our new Dutch oven, its quality and design are the equal of the French-made Le Creuset. The price, however, is not. Doug paid $97 for the 6-quart Lodge. The best deal I could find for a 5 1/2-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven was $235.

The Lodge bread is coming out beautifully. And with all the money Doug saved, we can buy some really good butter.