Cast Iron Baking

Barbara Rolek
Pear and dried cherry rustic tart

Cast iron ware is perfect for making baked goods, including cakes, pies, brownies, monster cookies and breads, because the pans' thick, heavy metal distributes heat evenly producing a well-browned crust and a tender crumb. Cast iron isn't just for cornbread anymore. What's even better, there's less clean-up because you can serve right from the pan.

Types of Baking Pans

There are as many types of cast iron baking pans as there are baking applications. Common pans include skillets, Dutch ovens, cornbread pans, loaf pans, baking pans, griddles, and grill pans. Waffle irons can be found in cast iron options, too. Cast iron pans also come enameled.

Other popular pieces of cast iron baking equipment include:

  • Joined muffin and biscuit pans - Round pan with at least seven wells joined to make individual muffins and drop biscuits
  • Corn pone pan - Rectangular pan with four to six corn-cob-looking wells joined and used for making individual portions of cornbread
  • Nordic ebleskiver pan - Round pan with seven hemispherical indentations to be filled with batter to make traditional Danish puffy pancakes
  • Rosette irons - A long metal rod with a heatproof handle at one end and decorative cast iron shapes (flower, butterfly, star, heart) attached to the other end, used to make pastries by dipping into batter and frying in hot fat

Tips for Baking in a Cast Iron Pan

Make your baking session a success by following these tips.

  • Start with a seasoned pan. Seasoning will turn your pan into a slip-and-slide making it almost impossible for food to stick.
  • Get the cast iron cookware hot. While cast iron distributes heat evenly, it is not a good conductor of heat. That means it's slow to heat up and cool down and, until fully heated, it will have hot spots leaving your dish undercooked in some places and overcooked in others. Once cast iron is heated, however, it retains that heat, making it one of the one of the best mediums for all kinds of cooking methods.
  • If not using a recipe specifically designed to be cooked in a cast iron pan, reduce the oven heat by 25 degrees to avoid excessive browning on the bottom and sides of the dish.
  • Cast iron is prone to rusting so rinse pans with water while still hot but do not soak them in water, don't use soap, and don't put them in a dishwasher. Instead, follow some tips on how to clean cast iron properly.

Pear and Dried Cherry Rustic Tart Recipe

This homey open-face pie (pictured above) is baked in the oven and is an exception to the rule of starting with a hot pan. The buttery pastry crust is fitted into a cold cast iron skillet. You can make the pastry in a food processor or by hand. Dried cranberries can be substituted for the dried cherries, making this recipe a fall and winter holiday dessert contender. You will need a 10-inch cast iron skillet. If your skillet is smaller, decrease the amount of pears and dried cherries or cranberries.

This will make 8 to 10 servings.

Pastry Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Pastry Directions

  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Scatter almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally so nuts don't burn, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  2. In a food processor or blender, chop the cooled almonds finely.
  3. Add flour, sugar, and salt and pulse to combine.
  4. Add the butter pieces and pulse until small peas form.
  5. Add vanilla or almond extract and ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and process just until the dough forms a ball around the blades. Don't overprocess.
  6. Transfer dough to plastic film, wrap tightly, and chill at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Filling, Egg Wash, and Garnish Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 8 to 9 large pears (Bosc, Anjou or French butter pears), peeled or unpeeled, cored and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 large room-temperature egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar (optional)

Filling, Egg Wash, and Garnish Directions

  1. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat to 350 degrees F. Place dried cherries or cranberries in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over and let sit while you prepare the rest of the filling.
  2. Place the pear slices in a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup granulated sugar, cornstarch, and ginger until well blended. Transfer the sugar mixture to the pears and stir gently.
  3. Drain the dried cherries or cranberries and pat them dry with a paper towel. Add to the pear mixture and stir gently. Set aside.
  4. Remove the pastry dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to a 16-inch circle. Transfer to a cold, ungreased 10-inch cast iron skillet, fitting it into the bottom of the pan and allowing the excess pastry to hang over the edge.
  5. Pour the pear filling into the pastry, mounding it in the middle. Fold the edges of the pastry up around the filling, overlapping them in soft folds. The middle of the tart will be uncovered.
  6. Make the egg wash by whisking together the egg and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash over the pastry and sprinkle it with the optional coarse sugar. Place the skillet in the heated oven and bake until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit is hot and bubbly, about 35 to 40 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 hour to set the juices. Serve warm right out of the pan. Accompany with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

No-Knead Crusty Bread Recipe

Cast iron pot with artisan bread

This bread tastes like it was made with a sourdough starter passed down from your French grandfather. But, no, it just needs four ingredients, a 5- to 6-quart cast iron or enameled cast iron Dutch oven with a lid knob able to withstand 450-degree heat, and a 12- to 18-hour rest on your kitchen counter (so plan accordingly).

This will make enough for 4 to 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cool water

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, yeast and salt. Add water and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until a shaggy dough forms. Don't knead or overmix. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on your countertop for 12 to 18 hours.
  2. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the oven is up to temp, place the pan with the lid on top in the oven and heat for 30 minutes.
  3. Heavily dust your work surface with flour and tip the dough out onto it. The dough will be very sticky so use a dough scraper to help form it into a smooth ball but do not knead it. Transfer to a floured piece of parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes (while the Dutch oven is heating).
  4. Use the ends of the parchment paper to lift the dough ball and place it in the heated Dutch oven (parchment and all). Put the lid on and bake for 30 minutes. The closed environment will create steam and a crispy crust. Remove the lid and bake 15 minutes more.
  5. Remove from the oven and lift the bread out by the parchment paper. Take it off the parchment and cool on a wire rack until you can't resist cutting into it any longer.

S'mores Dip Recipe

Smores dip

Take this fun campfire dessert/snack away from the bonfire and bring it into the kitchen by making it in an 8- or 9-inch cast iron skillet in the oven. It's an easy recipe with lots of possibilities for variations.

Modify a Recipe

Take a basic s'mores dip recipe and make a few modifications so it's suitable for the cast iron skillet. Swap out chocolate frosting for 1 1 /2 cups milk chocolate chips and use a cast iron skillet placed on the center rack of an oven heated to 450 degrees F. Once the oven comes up to temperature, remove the skillet with a thick pot holder and place it on a heatproof surface. Proceed to melt the butter in the bottom of the skillet and layer chips and marshmallows. Bake until the marshmallows are golden brown (about 5 to 7 minutes) and remove from the oven.

Allow the dip to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Be careful because the mixture is very hot. Advise your guests to blow on their scoop before popping it in their mouths.

Variations

This recipe lends itself to so many variations, but then it wouldn't be a s'mores dip! But if you can't control your creative impulses, try using a combination of chocolate and peanut butter or praline chips. Chopped pecans or walnuts can be layered on top of the chips, and you can even consider spreading on a layer of Marshmallow Fluff instead of marshmallow pieces. It's pretty much anything goes.

Cast Iron Baking Enters the 21st Century

What were once considered cooking tools for cowpokes, campers, and pioneers, cast iron ware has reemerged as a trendy and cool way to cook. Baking desserts and breads are just the tip of the iceberg. Cast iron is also ideal for deep frying, searing, and braising, and it can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, or on a grill.

Cast Iron Baking