I’ve been baking all sorts of bread at home for quite some time now. Yet this technique is somewhat new to me. And I just love it. Actually I’m a little bit obsessed by it! This bread is probably one of the best breads I have made at home and I intend to continue my bread-baking in my dutch oven, experimenting with different types of bread and dough etc.
If you have a dutch oven and if you are a homebaker like me, you really have to give this a try! So then, let me tell you how…
- 500 gr country bread flour (3,5 cups)
- 370 ml lukewarm water (1,5 cups) (25-27 C or 77-80 F)
- 21 gr fresh yeast (1¼ tbsp)
- 1 tsp soft brown sugar (to activate the yeast)
- 8 gr salt (1 tsp – use Himalaya Pink or sea salt if available)
- 1 tsp carob molasses (or other molasses of your choice)
- 1 tbsp walnut oil (or other vegetable oil, preferably evoo)
Break up the fresh yeast into a bowl, add sugar and about 1/2 cup of the water. Mix until yeast melts into the water and set aside until yeast activates – should take a few minutes.
If using a bread machine: Place remaining water, molasses and oil into the container and add the activated yeast. Add the flour and finally the salt. Select the ‘kneading and leavening’ program which should last about 90 minutes (check your machine’s user’s guide if you’re not sure about this).
If kneading dough by hand: Place flour and salt into a large bowl and blend with a whisk. Make a small well in the middle. In a separate bowl or jug place the remaining 1 cup of water, add the oil and molasses. Pour this water into the well along with the activated yeast. Use a fork to take flour from the sides into the middle and incorporate mixture into a dough. Once the mixture starts forming into a dough start working with your hands and knead the dough until smooth. Place in a warm spot covered with a clean cloth and let rise until about double in size (should take about 1 hour).
If you’re not going to bake your bread right away you can place it into a lightly greased deep bowl, cover with cling film and leave 8-12 hours for retarded proof in the refrigerator.
If you kept your dough in the fridge, take it out about 1 hour prior to baking time.
Cut a piece of baking paper large enough to fit into the dutch oven and lightly wet and crinkle the paper then roll it out again and place it into the dutch oven to form the same shape. Now take it out of the dutch oven, shake off excess water if necessary and place it close to the oven. Sprinkle the base with some regular flour.
Take dough onto lightly floured surface, knead briefly trying to shape it like your dutch oven (oval in my case) and place dough into the prepared baking paper and set aside on the counter while the oven preheats. Place dutch oven into the oven on the second rack from bottom and start heating your oven to 220 C (430 F).
After 20 minutes of preheating, make 3-4 slits on the dough using a sharp knife dipped in flour each time and carefully place dough into dutch oven. Place lid and bake for 35-40 minutes with lid on and then about 10-15 minutes without lid. Once baked take bread out of dutch oven holding from the sides of the baking paper and place it on a cooling rack.
IMPORTANT: Place a tray full of hot water on the bottom of your oven while baking the bread.
(I used an enamelware cast iron dutch oven of about 28 cm or 11 inches)