Why did I wait so long to try this recipe? Apparently I have denied myself years of delicious and easy homemade bread. If you look through this blog, you'll notice that there are very few baking recipes - I'm just not that into the whole measuring thing, and my tiny kitchen doesn't accommodate much room for kneading, mixing, shaping and what-have-you. Well, none of that is needed (kneaded?) with this bread. The active prep time is like...less than 10 minutes? The Dutch oven helps create a nice crust on all sides, and the crumb is tender and airy. This is the perfect bread for serving with soups, stews, or just slathered with butter, toasted or not.
Besides your flour, yeast, water and salt, you need two things: 1) a Dutch oven, aka large enameled cast-iron pot with a lid, and 2) to remember to start the dough the day before you want to eat your bread. You do have to let the dough sit for 12-18 hours, but that eliminates the kneading and punching down/multiple rises many other breads require. I've been mixing the dough at like 11pm and then I'll bake it the next afternoon.
I've now made this 3 times in the last couple weeks, and have tweaked the recipe slightly to work for me. This seems to be very forgiving, if you fudge quantities & times a bit. Everyone's ovens, flours and yeasts are different, so feel free to experiment and adjust. As long as you don't majorly burn the bread, I think you'll be happy with whatever comes out! My latest loaf came out with a weird lizard ridgey - thing on it...just an extra piece for the baker!
A note on quantities: most recipes call for 3 cups of flour and 1 1/2 cups water. I've always had to add a bit more water (usually another 1/4 cup or so) to get a moist enough dough, but start with 1 1/2 cups and add more if needed. You can also use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast if that's what you have. The first two loaves I made with 1/2 tsp active dry yeast, and the third loaf I added a bit more (actually just to finish out the packet). I've seen recipes with instant yeast calling for as little as 1/4 tsp, but it varies.
Parchment paper is optional, but makes it easy to transfer the dough in and out of the hot pot - and you don't have to clean the pot!
OK, so here's how you make it:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups lukewarm water
Put the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir with a wooden spoon. Add more water if needed to make a wet, shaggy dough. It should definitely be wetter than your typical kneaded bread dough.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it on your counter (or in the oven) for 12-18 hours. After this time, the dough should look something like this:
When you're ready to bake:
Put your Dutch oven with its lid into the oven and preheat to 450. I leave it in a few minutes after the oven says it's preheated.
Meanwhile, get a large piece of parchment paper and sprinkle some flour on it. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour over the dough, and flour your hands.
Use your hands to scrape the dough out of the bowl, and form into a loose ball. Plop it on the parchment paper and form into a rough round or oval, depending on the shape of your pot. Cover with a tea towel or paper towel until the oven & pot are preheated.
Carefully take the hot pot out of the oven. Take the corners of the parchment paper and drop the dough (still on the paper) into the hot pot. Cut away excess paper if needed and cover the pot.
Bake for 35 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Most recipes say to bake 45 minutes covered and 15 uncovered, but I found that was too long for me...
Lift the parchment paper out and let the bread cool for at least 15 minutes before tearing into it.