Many of us are doing a lot more cooking and baking these days while sheltering in place. It’s the perfect time to try that new recipe or pick up a new skill like making homemade bread.
In 20 Things to do at Home with Extra Time on Our Hands, one of the things I suggest is trying a new recipe. Baking bread from scratch is a little intimidating, as yeast can be a bit tricky to use. Not to mention flour and yeast are in short supply these days as more people are baking during the lock down. It took me a couple weeks and trying several different stores to find yeast and flour but we did and my bread turned out amazing!
If you have never baked bread, not to worry, it’s actually very easy. Chances are you already have the ingredients in your pantry. Another great thing about this recipe…no kneading necessary! How easy is that?
Growing up the daughter of a french chef meant we ate fresh baked baguettes all the time! To this day…my favorite treat is freshly baked bread with butter…nothing compares. I will judge a restaurant based on the bread it serves…warm and fresh…good, crackers or cold bread….not so good 😬.
Using a Dutch Oven to Bake Bread
I use my Le Creuset Dutch Oven for baking bread. Why use a Dutch Oven? Baking bread with the lid on traps steam inside the pot, creating that perfect crispy crust. A lid is key to the success of this recipe. You will want to use at least a 6 quart size oven to make this loaf of deliciousness.
Ingredients to Make Homemade Bread
Baking great bread involves only 4 simple ingredients:
- 3 and 1/4 cups bread flour
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast (or active yeast will do if you can’t find instant)
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 and 1/2 cups cool water
- Cornmeal for dusting pan (optional)
Instructions to Make Homemade Bread
I highly recommend using bread flour. If you don’t have bread flour, regular will do, but bread flour tastes better and is the preferred choice for baking bread.
1.) In a large un-greased mixing bowl, whisk the flour, yeast, and course salt together. Pour in the cool water and gently mix together with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The dough will seem dry, but keep working it until all the flour is moistened. The dough will be sticky and I do mean sticky! Shape into a ball in the bowl as best you can using the spatula. If you use your fingers, the mix will stick to you and is hard to manage.
2.) Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and set on the counter at room temperature. Allow to rise for 2-3 hours. The dough will just about double in size and stick to the sides of the bowl. It will also have a lot of air bubbles.
Tip: You can begin baking the bread after it has rested for a few hours. But, allowing the risen dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least another 12 hours and up to 3 days will enhance its taste greatly. I prepare my dough in the evening and bake it for lunch the following day.
3.) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and, using lightly floured hands, shape into a ball as best you can. Transfer dough to a large piece of parchment paper. (Large enough to fit inside your pot and one that is safe under high heat). If you are using cornmeal, sprinkle a bit on the paper.
Tip: If you don’t have parchment paper that can be used for high heat, greasing the bottom of your pan will work too.
4.) Using a very sharp knife, gently cut an X into the top of your dough. Cover dough lightly with plastic wrap and leave alone for 30 minutes.
5.) During this 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 475°F. Once the oven is preheated, place your dutch oven with lid on inside for 30 minutes. We want the dutch oven to be extremely hot before the dough is placed inside.
6.) After 30 minutes, remove the dutch oven from the oven and carefully place the dough inside by lifting it up with the parchment paper and sticking it all in, (the parchment paper included). Cover with the lid. My parchment paper wasn’t sufficient for high heat, so I used a bit of oil and sprinkled cornmeal on the bottom of the oven.
7.) Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. Carefully remove the lid and continue baking for 8-10 more minutes until the bread is golden brown. Remove pot from the oven, carefully remove the bread from the pot, and allow to cool on the counter for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
Tip: If you have any leftovers, cover and store bread at room temperature for 5 – 7 days.
Tip: Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions:
- The dough can sit in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, so this is a wonderful recipe to begin ahead of time.
- You can also bake the bread, allow it to cool, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving.
- You can also freeze the dough by placing it in a freezer-friendly container. To bake, allow dough to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or for 2-3 hours at room temperature.
My family loved this bread! It was so crunchy and delicious, there was only 1 slice left and was eaten within the next few hours.
My only complaint about the process is that the dutch oven was a bit laborious to clean, and required quite a bit of elbow grease and baking soda to get spotless, (which is how I like to keep my white dutch oven). But it was worth the extra work as the bread was so delicious!
Tip: An alternative to using a dutch oven would be baking the dough on a flat pan. If you use a pan, make 2 long loaves instead of one round one. To crisp the dough, use an additional pan with 3 cups of boiling water on the bottom shelf to create steam to crisp the dough.
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I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.
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