Hello friends! Today has been an odd mix of sunshine, rain, and snow. It’s the kind of weather that makes you want to stay indoors, so I am doing exactly that. The kitchen has gotten a good work out and I’m really pleased with the results.
I have recently discovered a fantastic way to bake bread that produces a very crusty, artisan-style loaf. It requires no special equipment- just one simple item- a cast iron dutch oven.
The dutch oven and lid are placed in a preheated 450 F oven for 30 minutes before you are ready to bake your loaf. In this way the dutch oven continues to build and retain heat- this is perfect for baking your bread. After it has preheated, it will be all hot and ready.
The proofed dough is gently (and carefully- mind you, that dutch oven is hot!) placed into the bottom of the pot, covered, and sent on it’s way to crusty perfection. Bake the bread covered for about 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the bread is a glorious golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Using some tongs, carefully remove the loaf and let it cool a bit…then get ready to slice into your beautiful loaf of bread with a great crusty, crunchy exterior. The inside will be soft and tender.
I was a little skeptical when I first learned about this method, but tasting my first loaf baked this way brought back memories of baking bread in pastry school. We had access to deck ovens and I ate some of the best bread in my life. This bread, like any artisanal bread, tastes best the day it’s baked. Once it’s wrapped, it will lose some of it’s crunch and the crust will get softer.
How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:
Dutch Oven Bread
adapted from Le Cordon Bleu Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen
- 1 cup warm water (105-110 F)
- 1¾ teaspoons dry yeast
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup whole wheat flour
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- Activate the yeast by sprinkling it over the warm water in a medium-sized bowl.
- Let the yeast sit for about 5 minutes, until it is foamy and bubbling. This signals that the yeast is working.
- Add the flours, salt, and sugar. Gently mix together until a dough starts to form.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 10-12 minutes, adding a little extra flour here and there if needed.
- The dough will be ready when it is smooth, elastic, and forms a "gluten window".
- A "gluten window" is when a small piece of dough can be stretched between your fingers into a small square shape without tearing. It will be thin and you can almost see through the dough.
- Place the dough in a lightly buttered bowl and turn once to coat.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let proof for about 30 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size.
- When your dough has nearly proofed, preheat your oven to 450 F.
- Once the oven is heated, place your dutch oven pot and lid inside of the oven and preheat them for 30 minutes.
- When the dough has completed proofing, punch it down and shape the dough into a small round ball- called a "boule".
- Place the ball of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with lightly buttered plastic wrap. Let the dough proof until doubled in size, about 25-30 minutes.
- Brush the top and sides of the boule with water.
- Using a sharp razor or knife, make two slashes in a cross pattern on the top of the dough.
- Carefully remove the dutch oven and lid from the oven, they will be very hot so take care not to burn your wrists or arms.
- Gently pick up the boule with your fingers by sliding them underneath. Try not to smash or damage the boule.
- Carefully lower the boule into the dutch oven. It's ok if you drop it 2-3" from the bottom. Cover it with the lid and place inside the oven.
- Bake the bread for 20 minutes, then take off the lid.
- Bake another 10 minute or so, until the outside and bottom are a golden brown and the boule sounds hollow when tapped.
Note: This recipe was adjusted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, increase the yeast to 2 teaspoons and account for longer proofing and baking of the bread.