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Artisan Dutch Oven Bread

Not much beats the aroma and beauty of fresh-baked Artisan Bread. Using a Dutch Oven lets you create these crisp-crusted delicious loaves in your own kitchen!

I’ve always admired the beautiful rustic bread loaves on display in bakeries and included in gorgeously dramatic food photography shots. While I may have dreamed of having the knowledge and skill to make a bread loaf like that myself, never did I expect that I might actually manage to do it. Never… until this week when, after many weeks of learning, experimenting, and failed attempts, I baked my first loaf of perfect Artisan Dutch Oven Bread!

The experience was one of the most satisfying I’ve had in a long time, and the pride I felt when I took it out of the oven and heard the freshly baked bread loaf  “singing!” Yes, I said singing.

Artisan Dutch Oven Bread

Did you know that when bread is baked right, it will ‘sing’ when it comes out of the oven and hits the room temperature air? It’s a lovely crackling sound you can hear if you put your ear close to the bread loaf as you transfer it from the Dutch oven to your wire rack on the counter to cool.

Since I’ve started baking artisan bread using my Dutch Oven, and experienced the sound of bread crackling on the counter, my relationship with bread and bread making has completely changed! Learning to bake bread using a Dutch Oven rather than the bread machine I’ve had for years has been a game-changer.

Artisan Dutch Oven Bread

Why because of a Dutch oven? 

When baking crisp-crusted artisan bread, you need to have steam in the oven with the bread so the loaf will do its final pop or ‘oven rise.’ By using a Dutch Oven when you cook a bread loaf, you don’t need to mess with a pan of water in the bottom of the oven, or have to spray water in the oven with a spray bottle to provide the steam needed by the baking bread. It’s pure genius!!

Now that I’ve introduced you to the baking tool that has literally transformed my relationship with bread, and the ability to produce gorgeous loaves of Artisan Bread in my own kitchen, let’s back up a bit.

Bread baking is a science and an art. Commencing on a journey toward great bread baking can take a week, a year, or a lifetime. I don’t know that mine will take a lifetime, but I do know that I’ll be continuing to learn for quite a while; probably years (since I’m a perfectionist and goal driven).

Artisan Dutch Oven Bread

I’m a student at heart, so the first thing I normally do when I want to learn about something is either search the internet or get some good books to learn from. I’ve got two books on bread making that are pretty close to bread making Bibles. The first book is Flour Water Salt Yeast, by Ken Forkish. The second is The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.

Artisan Dutch Oven Bread

Flour Water Salt Yeast is an amazing book, and it got me started on the journey to understanding fermentation, the ability and value of refrigerating your dough before baking, and the huge difference the length of time you let your dough ferment can make on the final bake.

Of the two, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, was the game-changer! It took everything I was still trying to understand from the first book, put it into layman’s terms, giving me clear instructions that, when connected with what I had already learned, caused my bread to sing!

Now that I’ve got your attention, and you’re wondering if you can bake beautiful loaves like this in your own kitchen, I’m here to tell you that “Yes, you can too!”

And, here’s how…

Here is a short video showing you how easy it is to mix the dough!

I do give specific instructions further below, in the recipe section, along with a bunch of helpful notes and tips, so I’ll just give you the high points here, and let you dive into the specifics as you read the recipe and prepare to attempt this journey in your own kitchen…

You will need a large bowl or food-quality container in which to mix and proof your dough. I use a Cambro 6-quart round container with lid as my dough tub. It’s so much easier for mixing and storing the dough and fits easily into a corner of your refrigerator. If you think you will be making artisan bread on a regular basis, you should seriously consider investing in one.

This is a Master Dough recipe, and I use it as the base for many of my other bread bakes. As we continue on our bread baking journey together, I will often refer back to this page for the base recipe.  You need flour, yeast, salt, and water. You’ll mix the water, yeast, salt, and flour together until the mixture is uniformly moist. NO KNEADING!! This recipe and method don’t require kneading. As a matter of fact, kneading anywhere in the process for this Artisan Bread will cause you to have a denser bread, without all the amazing air holes and open crumb that artisan bread is famous for.

FLAVOR TIP: Add 1 teaspoon of dried Thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of dried Rosemary when you are mixing up the dough in your tub to easily turn it into a delicious and aromatic Herb Bread!

Once it’s mixed, you’ll cover the container or bowl and let it sit on your counter for two hours so it can rise. After about two hours, put the dough in the refrigerator, container and all, and leave it there until you’re ready to make a loaf of bread. You can use the dough immediately, but the flavor improves if you let the dough ferment for a day or so.

Another reason to put the dough in the refrigerator to chill is so that your loaf will rise and pop upwards when it’s in the oven baking. The first loaves of bread I baked using my 6-quart Dutch Oven were delicious, but because I used the dough straight from mixing to oven without first refrigerating it, the loaf spread as it baked. Instead of rising up, it rose out. Since switching to using cold dough, my loaves pop up beautifully in the Dutch Oven and hold their petite round shape amazingly well.

Artisan Dutch Oven Bread
Artisan Master Dough Recipe

When it’s time to bake a loaf, you’ll take the dough bowl out of the refrigerator, decide what size loaf you want to bake, and then cut off the appropriate amount of dough. If you’re making a one-pound loaf, which is what I usually make so it doesn’t hang around too long and get stale, you’ll want a piece of dough about the size of a grapefruit.

Again, remember that there is no kneading involved here. You’ll need to have flour handy to dust the dough while you work with it and section off your piece. You will now shape the dough by holding it in your hands and gently stretching the surface around to the bottom, then rotating the ball in your hands to stretch and pull under the next section, and the next, until you have stretched, folded and shaped the dough into a smooth, loaf-shaped ball. This process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds. Remember – NO KNEADING! 

Artisan Dutch Oven Bread
Artisan Dutch Oven Bread
Artisan Dutch Oven Bread
Artisan Dutch Oven Bread

Coat the dough loaf in flour to create a “gluten cloak” and set it on either parchment paper or in a proofing basket to rest for about 40 minutes.

Artisan Dutch Oven Bread
Artisan Dutch Oven Bread

While the dough is taking its final rest, preheat your Dutch Oven in the oven at 475 degrees F. The Dutch Oven needs to preheat for between 45 – 60 minutes.

The dough won’t rise much during this final rest on the counter, so don’t worry if you don’t see it double or triple in size. Most of the final rise will take place in the oven, inside your Dutch Oven, where the loaf will do its “oven spring.”

Following the instructions below, once the dough has finished its final rest, you’ll transfer it to your preheated Dutch Oven, cover it with the lid, and put it in the oven. As I mention specifically in the recipe instructions, make sure to have your oven rack in the MIDDLE of the oven. The bottom of the oven is the hottest part, and in an oven set to 475 degrees, if you put the rack too low the bottom of your bread loaf will scorch.

Halfway through the baking time, you’ll take the lid off the Dutch Oven and finish baking the loaf uncovered so that the crust can brown and get deliciously crispy.

Once the loaf is done baking, let it cool on a wire rack on your counter for about two hours. While it’s terribly tempting to cut into that warm loaf of bread calling your name, letting it set for those couple of hours will add to the crumb texture and moistness.

If you have done well, and your fresh baked bread is happily perfect, you should here it “singing” as it sits on your counter and begins to cool!

Artisan Dutch Oven Bread
Artisan Dutch Oven Bread

Here’s my video showing the step-by-step process of making artisan bread in a Dutch oven.

Servings:

6 per loaf

Prep Time:

20 min + 3 to 14 hours rise

Cook Time:

50 minutes

Difficulty:

Medium

Introduction

About this Recipe

By: Tess

Not much beats the aroma and beauty of fresh-baked Artisan Bread. Using a Dutch Oven lets you create these crisp-crusted delicious loaves in your own kitchen. Learning how to prepare your bread dough ahead of time, and letting it ferment and proof in your refrigerator makes prepping and baking a fresh loaf of bread whenever you want it a breeze.

Artisan Dutch Oven Bread

Ingredients

Artisan Master Dough Recipe for four 1-pound loaves

    • 3 cups (680 g) lukewarm water, between 90˚-100˚F (30˚-35˚C)
    • 1 tablespoon (10 g) granulated yeast
    • 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
    • 6 1/2 cups (910 g) all-purpose flour (either weighed or using scoop-and-sweep)

OPTIONAL FOR HERB DOUGH MIX: 

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 Artisan Master Dough Recipe (makes two 1-pound loaves)

  • 1 ½ cups (340 g) lukewarm water, between 90˚-10˚F (30˚-35˚C)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon (5 g) granulated yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 1/4 cups (455 g) all-purpose flour (either weighed or using scoop-and-sweep)

Notes and Tips

This recipe makes enough for approximately 4 loaves, slightly less than 1 pound each. You can easily halve it, especially if you are just starting out and uncertain of timing, usage, etc.

Easily turn this dough mix into an Herb bread by adding 1 teaspoon thyme and 1/2 teaspoon rosemary.

Artisan Dutch Oven Bread
Artisan Master Herb Dough Recipe

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1

MIXING AND STORING THE DOUGH:

Warm the water slightly: It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature, about 100 ˚F. By using warm water, the dough will rise to the right point for storage in about 2 hours. You can use cold water and get the same final result, but the first rising will take longer.

Step 2

Add yeast and salt to the water in a 6-quart bowl or, preferably, in a lidded (not airtight) food container or food-grade plastic bucket. Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.

Step 3

Mix in the flour – kneading is unnecessary: Add all of the flour at once, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, or by weighing the ingredients on an inexpensive kitchen food scale. If you measure with cups, use the scoop-and-sweep method, gently scooping up flour with a spoon, putting it into the measuring cup, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula; don’t press down into the flour you scoop or you’ll throw off the measurement by compressing. You can use a wooden spoon or even your stand mixer with the paddle attachment to mix together, but I’ve found the easiest and simplest method is to simply use your hand. Don’t knead! It isn’t necessary. You’re finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. This step is done in a matter of minutes and will yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.

NOTE: The hand-mixing process doesn’t take long at all, and is not complicated. I use only one hand to mix, leaving the other hand free to help scrape the dough off my hand when I’m finished mixing.

Step 4

Allow the dough to rise: Cover the dough with a lid that fits well to the container but can be cracked open so it’s not completely airtight. If you’re using a bowl, cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Towels don’t work – they stick to wet dough, and as your dough rises it will likely press against the top of the bowl, depending on the size bowl. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), about 2 hours, depending on the room’s temperature and the initial water temperature — then refrigerate it and use over the next fourteen days. If your container isn’t vented, allow gasses to escape by leaving it open a crack for the first couple of days in the fridge — after that, you can close the lid.

NOTE: If you forget about the dough rising on the counter, don’t worry: longer rising times at room temperature, even overnight, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough at any time after the 2-hour rise. **I have found that fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and much easier to work with than dough at room temperature. Even more importantly, I’ve found that the loaf will not spread and flatten nearly as much while it is baking as it does when baking it from room temperature.

The first loaves of bread I baked using my 6-quart Dutch Oven were delicious, but because I used the dough straight from mixing to oven without first refrigerating it, the loaf spread as it baked. Instead of rising up, it rose out. Since switching to using cold dough, my loaves pop up beautifully in the Dutch Oven and hold their petite round shape amazingly well.

Step 5

Once refrigerated, the dough will seem to have shrunk back upon itself, like it will never rise again. That’s normal and okay. Whatever you do, do NOT punch down this dough. With this method, you’re trying to retain as much gas in the dough as possible, and punching it down knocks gas out and will make your loaves denser.

Step 6

PREPARING AND BAKING THE LOAF

PREPARING FOR THE DOUGH SHAPING AND FINAL REST/RISE: You have two options here. I’ve tested them both and either works quite well. This step is to prepare a surface for your loaf to be put on once it has been shaped so it can do its final rest/rise before going into the oven.

Option 1: Lay a piece of parchment paper over a 10-inch skillet (I use my 10-inch cast-iron skillet for this step), press the parchment paper down into the skillet to shape it a bit and prepare it for where the dough loaf will sit as it does its final rest/rise, and sprinkle the parchment paper lightly with some flour or cornmeal.

Option 2: Use a proofing basket for the dough’s final rest/rise. If you are using a proofing basket, coat it liberally with flour so the dough won’t stick when you are ready to flip it out for baking.

Step 7

It’s time to preheat your Dutch Oven. You will want it to preheat for 45 minutes to 1 hour before baking your loaf. I’ve found that if I start the preheating processing just before I take my dough out of the refrigerator, the timing works out perfectly. Place your oven rack to the MIDDLE setting in the oven. The bottom of the oven is the hottest part. If you set your rack too low, your bread loaf will scorch on the bottom from the intense heat down there. I learned this very important tip through much trial and error. Once your rack is set to the middle of the oven, set your Dutch oven on the rack with the lid next to it inside the oven. Preheat the oven with the dutch oven and lid inside at 475 degrees F. Now it’s time to prepare your dough for baking.

Step 8

THE GLUTEN CLOAK: Don’t knead, just “cloak” and shape a loaf in 20 to 40 seconds. Have your container of flour on hand and ready to assist you with this next step. Now, take your bowl or bucket of dough out of the refrigerator. Dust the surface of the dough in the bowl with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife or kitchen shears. Hold the dough and add more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere together during the resting and baking processes. The correctly shaped loaf will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds — remember, NO KNEADING! Don’t work the dough longer than this or your loaves may be dense.

Step 9

If you are using Option 1 from step #6 above, place the shaped ball of dough on the prepared parchment paper in your 10-inch skillet to rest. If using Option 2, gently and carefully set your shaped dough ball into the proofing basket, seam side down. Now let the dough rest for about 40 minutes. It doesn’t need to be covered during the rest period unless you’re extending the rest time to get a more “open” crumb. You don’t need to be monitoring the dough for doubling or tripling of volume as in traditional recipes. You may not see much, if any, rising during this period; much more rising will occur inside the Dutch Oven during baking when the loaf experiences “oven spring” from the sudden high heat and steam created inside the covered Dutch Oven.

Step 10

DUST AND SLASH: If you used Option 1 and your dough has been resting on the parchment paper in the skillet, all you need to do now is dust the top of the loaf liberally with some more flour, which will prevent the knife from sticking when you add your baker’s mark slashes. 

If you used Option 2 and have rested your dough in a proofing basket, you will now want to prepare a piece of parchment paper (approximately 20-24 inches long). Lay the parchment paper on the counter, dust it lightly with flour or cornmeal, and very gently flip the proofing basket over so the dough ball will fall out into your hands and onto the center of the parchment paper. Use your hands to gently ease the dough out of the basket and into position on the parchment paper. This should not be an air-drop from above, but more of a gentle easing. When using the proofing basket method, the side that was down in the proofing basket will now be on top. This is what gives the beautiful ringed look from the flour on the finished and baked bread loaf.

Now, for both options, dust and slash the top of the loaf liberally with some more flour, which will prevent the knife from sticking. Slash a 1/2-inch-deep cross, scallop, or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife held perpendicular to the bread. You can also use your kitchen shears for very easy and quick slashes.

Leave the flour in place for baking, and just tap some off before eating.

Step 11

BAKING THE LOAF: You will be baking your loaf on the prepared parchment paper. Using heavy-duty oven mitts, take both the dutch oven and lid out of the oven and set them on the stove stop side by side. Grasping the edges of the parchment paper, lift the dough and set it into the Dutch oven. There should be enough parchment paper so that it sticks out of the top. With your oven mitts on, put the lid onto the Dutch oven and place the Dutch oven back inside your oven.

Step 12

Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on (for a 1-pound loaf). If you are making a 1 1/2 pound loaf, bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. With your oven mitts on, take the lid off of the Dutch oven and continue baking the bread loaf uncovered for an additional 25-30 minutes. You want the bread crust to be richly brown, like caramel or dark honey.

Step 13

Using your oven mitts, take the Dutch oven out and set it on your stovetop. Carefully remove the bread loaf from the Dutch oven by grasping the ends of the parchment paper. The parchment paper will have darkened and turned brittle from high-heat baking time, so make sure you grasp it in sections that won’t break off as you transfer the loaf from the Dutch oven to your wire cooling rack.

Step 14

This is the part I absolutely love the best! When you remove the loaf from the oven, a perfectly baked loaf will audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to room-temperature air. For a bread baker, novice or expert alike, this is a moment of pure joy.

Step 15

Allow the loaf to cool completely (2 hours, if possible), preferably on a wire cooling rack, allowing time for the flavor and texture to set before slicing. The crust may initially soften but will firm up again when cooled. If you’re not getting the browning and crispness you want, test your oven temperature with an inexpensive oven thermometer.

Step 16

Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in your lidded or loosely plastic-wrapped container and use it over the next 14 days: You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. This maturation continues over the 14-day storage period.

TIP: I can’t recall where I found this particular tip, but — If you store your Artisan bread in a plastic bag or even in a bread container on the counter, the crust will soften and lose its crispness. If you do not finish the bread at one sitting and will be eating it within the next few hours or day, simply set the remaining portion of the loaf on its side so that the cut side is down and not exposed to air, which will slightly dry it. It won’t go stale and the crisp crust of your loaf will keep the bread fresh for some eggs and toast for breakfast in the morning.

Additional Comments:

EQUIPMENT NEEDED: 5 to 6-quart Dutch Oven, proofing basket, large capacity bowl, or food-quality tub with lid.

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Artisan Dutch Oven Bread

Artisan Dutch Oven Bread Recipe Card


  • Author: Tess
  • Prep Time: 20 min prep; 3 to 14 hr rise
  • Cook Time: 50 min
  • Total Time: 4 to 14 hrs
  • Yield: four 1-pound loaves 1x

Description

Not much beats the aroma and beauty of fresh-baked Artisan Bread. Using a Dutch Oven lets you create these crisp-crusted delicious loaves in your own kitchen. Learning how to prepare your bread dough ahead of time, and letting it ferment and proof in your refrigerator makes prepping and baking a fresh loaf of bread whenever you want it a breeze.

Easily turn this into an Herb bread by adding 1 teaspoon thyme and 1/2 teaspoon rosemary to the mix.


Scale

Ingredients

3 cups (680 g) lukewarm water, between 90˚-10˚F (30˚-35˚C)
1 tablespoon (10 g) granulated yeast
1 to 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
6 ½ cups (910 g) all-purpose flour (either weighed or using scoop-and-sweep)

Optional additions for Herb Bread Dough Mix: 1 teaspoon thyme and 1/2 teaspoon rosemary

*This recipe makes enough for approximately 4 loaves, slightly less than 1 pound each. You can easily halve it, especially if you are just starting out and uncertain of timing, usage, etc.

To halve the recipe use:

1 ½ cups (340 g) lukewarm water, between 90˚-10˚F (30˚-35˚C)
1 1/4 teaspoon (5 g) granulated yeast
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
3 1/4 cups (455 g) all-purpose flour (either weighed or using scoop-and-sweep)


Instructions

MIXING AND STORING THE DOUGH:

1. Warm the water slightly: It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature, about 100 ˚F. By using warm water, the dough will rise to the right point for storage in about 2 hours. You can use cold water and get the same final result, but the first rising will take longer.

2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a 6-quart bowl or, preferably, in a lidded (not airtight) food container or food-grade plastic bucket. Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.

3. Mix in the flour – kneading is unnecessary: Add all of the flour at once, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, or by weighing the ingredients on an inexpensive kitchen food scale. If you measure with cups, use the scoop-and-sweep method, gently scooping up flour with a spoon, putting it into the measuring cup, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula; don’t press down into the flour a you scoop or you’ll throw off the measurement by compressing. You can use a wooden spoon or even your stand mixer with the paddle attachment to mix together, but I’ve found the easiest and simplest method is to simply use your hand. Don’t knead! It isn’t necessary. You’re finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. This step is done in a matter of minutes and will yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.

NOTE: The hand-mixing process doesn’t take long at all, and is not complicated. I use only one hand to mix, leaving the other hand free to help scrape the dough off my hand when I’m finished mixing.

4. Allow the dough to rise: Cover the dough with a lid that fits well to the container but can be cracked open so it’s not completely airtight. If you’re using a bowl, cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Towels don’t work – they stick to wet dough, and as your dough rises it will likely press against the top of the bowl, depending on the size bowl. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), about 2 hours, depending on the room’s temperature and the initial water temperature — then refrigerate it and use over the next fourteen days. If your container isn’t vented, allow gasses to escape by leaving it open a crack for the first couple of days in the fridge — after that, you can close the lid.

NOTE: If you forget about the dough rising on the counter, don’t worry: longer rising times at room temperature, even overnight, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough at any time after the 2-hour rise. **I have found that fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and much easier to work with than dough at room temperature. Even more importantly, I’ve found that the loaf will not spread and flatten nearly as much while it is baking as it does when baking it from room temperature.

The first loaves of bread I baked using my 6-quart Dutch Oven were delicious, but because I used the dough straight from mixing to oven without first refrigerating it, the loaf spread as it baked. Instead of rising up, it rose out. Since switching to using cold dough, my loaves pop up beautifully in the Dutch Oven and hold their petite round shape amazingly well.

5. Once refrigerated, the dough will seem to have shrunk back upon itself, and like it will never rise again. That’s normal and okay. Whatever you do, do NOT punch down this dough. With this method, you’re trying to retain as much gas in the dough as possible, and punching it down knocks gas out and will make your loaves denser.

PREPARING AND BAKING THE LOAF

6. PREPARING FOR THE DOUGH SHAPING AND FINAL REST/RISE: You have two options here. I’ve tested them both and either works quite well. This step is to prepare a surface for your loaf to be put on once it has been shaped so it can to its final rest/rise before going into the oven.

Option 1: Lay a piece of parchment paper over a 10-inch skillet (I use my 10-inch cast-iron skillet for this step), press the parchment paper down into the skillet to shape it a bit and prepare it for where the dough loaf will sit as it does its final rest/rise, and sprinkle the parchment paper lightly with some flour or cornmeal. Option 2: Use a proofing basket for the dough’s final rest/rise. If you are using a proofing basket, coat it liberally with flour so the dough won’t stick when you are ready to flip it out for baking.

7. It’s time to preheat your Dutch Oven. You will want it to preheat for 45 minutes to 1 hour before baking hour loaf. I’ve found that if I start the preheating processing just before I take my dough out of the refrigerator, the timing works out perfectly. Place your oven rack to the MIDDLE of the oven. The bottom of the oven is the hottest part. If you set your rack too low, your bread loaf will scorch on the bottom from the intense heat down there. I learned this very important tip through much trial and error. Once your rack is set to the middle of the oven, set your Dutch oven on the rack and the lid next to it inside the oven. Preheat the oven with the dutch oven and lid inside at 475 degrees F. Now it’s time to prepare your dough for baking.

8. THE GLUTEN CLOAK: Don’t knead, just “cloak” and shape a loaf in 20 to 40 seconds. Have your container of flour on hand and ready to assist you with this next step. Now, take your bowl or bucket of dough out of the refrigerator. Dust the surface of the dough in the bowl with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife or kitchen shears. Hold the dough and add more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere together during the resting and baking processes. The correctly shaped loaf will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds — remember, NO KNEADING! Don’t work the dough longer than this or your loaves may be dense.

9. If you are using Option 1 from step #6 above, place the shaped ball of dough on the prepared parchment paper in your 10-inch skillet. If using Option 2, gently and carefully set your shaped dough ball into the proofing basket, seam side down. Now let the dough rest for about 40 minutes. It doesn’t need to be covered during the rest period unless you’re extending the rest time to get a more “open” crumb. You don’t need to be monitoring the dough for doubling or tripling of volume as in traditional recipes. You may not see much, if any, rising during this period; much more rising will occur inside the Dutch Oven during baking when the loaf experiences “oven spring” from the sudden high heat and steam created inside the covered Dutch Oven.

10. DUST AND SLASH: If you used option 1 and your dough has been resting on the parchment paper in the skillet, all you need to do now is dust the top of the loaf liberally with some more flour, which will prevent the knife from sticking. Slash a 1/2-inch-deep cross, scallop, or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife held perpendicular to the bread. You can also use your kitchen shears for very easy and quick slashes.

If you used option 2 and have rested your dough in a proofing basket, you will now want to prepare a piece of parchment paper (approximately 20-24 inches long). Lay the parchment paper on the counter, dust it lightly with flour or cornmeal, and very gently flip the proofing basket over so the dough ball will fall out into your hands onto the center of the parchment paper. Use your hands to gently ease the dough out of the basket and into position on the parchment paper. This should not be an air-drop from above, but more of a gentle easing.

Now dust and slash the top of the loaf liberally with some more flour, which will prevent the knife from sticking. Slash a 1/2-inch-deep cross, scallop, or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife held perpendicular to the bread. You can also use your kitchen shears for very easy and quick slashes.

Leave the flour in place for baking, and just tap some off before eating.

11. BAKING THE LOAF: You will be baking your loaf on the prepared parchment paper. Using heavy duty oven mitts, take both the dutch oven and lid out of the oven and set them on the stove stop side by side. Grasping the edges of the parchment paper, lift the dough and set it into the Dutch oven. There should be enough parchment paper so that it sticks out of the top. With your oven mitts on, put the lid onto the Dutch oven and place the Dutch oven back inside your oven.

12. Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on (for a 1-pound loaf). If you are making a 1 1/2 pound loaf, bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. With your oven mitts on, take the lid off of the Dutch oven and continue baking the bread loaf uncovered for an additional 25-30 minutes. You want the bread crust to be richly brown, like caramel or dark honey.

13. Using your oven mitts, take the Dutch oven out and set it on your stovetop. Carefully remove the bread loaf from the Dutch oven by grasping the ends of the parchment paper. The parchment paper will have darkened and turned brittle from high-heat baking time, so make sure you grasp it in sections that won’t break off as you transfer the loaf from the Dutch oven to your wire cooling rack.

14. This is the part I absolutely love the best! When you remove the loaf from the oven, a perfectly baked loaf will audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to room-temperature air. For a bread baker, novice or expert alike, this is a moment of pure joy.

15. Allow the loaf to cool completely (2 hours, if possible), preferably on a wire cooling rack, for the flavor and texture to set before slicing. The crust may initially soften but will firm up again when cooled. If you’re not getting the browning and crispness you want, test your oven temperature with an inexpensive oven thermometer.

16. Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in your lidded or loosely plastic-wrapped container and use it over the next 14 days: You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. This maturation continues over the 14-day storage period.

TIP: For the life of me, I can’t remember where I found this particular tip, but — If you store your Artisan bread in a plastic bag or even in a bread container on the counter, the crust will soften and lose its crispness. If you do not finish the bread at one sitting and will be eating it within the next few hours or day, simply set the remaining portion of the loaf on its side so that the cut side is down and not exposed to air, which will slightly dry it. It won’t go stale and the crisp crust of your loaf will keep the bread fresh for some eggs and toast for breakfast in the morning.


Notes

EQUIPMENT NEEDED: 5 to 6-quart Dutch Oven, proofing basket, large capacity bowl, or food-quality tub with lid. I use the Cambro 6-quart container with lid as my dough tub.

Keywords: artisan bread, dutch oven bread

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Artisan Dutch Oven Bread
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