I’ve tried many breads now, and this one, despite its being a hybrid of conventional and wild sourdough, remains a staple in our household. I mostly baked it in a loaf pan, but I read about cast-iron-combo bread baking technique and always wanted to try it. We purchased the combo a couple of weeks back, and today I tried it for the first time in its bread baking capacity.
Cast iron combo is basically a medium size Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid which doubles as a skillet. You can use them together, separately, or upside down, which is how the bread is baked — you place the ready-to-bake loaf in the skillet-lid, cap it with the Dutch oven, which serves as a dome.
Because the cast iron parts are tightly fitting together, the air and steam don’t escape, so the natural moisture of the bread dough serves as a pressurized self-steaming mechanism inside the air tight cast iron. The steam raises the bread nicely for 20 minutes or so, after which the dome needs to be removed to allow the bread to brown and crisp nicely. That’s it. No boiling kitchen towels in a roasting pan, no spraying, no getting steam in your face. The only thing you need to remember is to put the combo in the oven as it heats up, and of course, be careful with the scorching hot cast iron.
The recipe itself is really irrelevant — I am just trying to demonstrate the bread after baking it this way. You can bake virtually any sourdough this way and get spectacular results. Read up on Tartine style breads, or no-knead sourdoughs, or try Peter Reinhart’s spectacular books.