Remember the days before we all made bread at home? I for one don’t want to remember! Bread became my husband’s pandemic project, and I think he’s gotten it pretty dang close to perfect. This Dutch Oven Artisan Bread recipe is a culmination of many loaves of tinkering and perfecting, and I was a very willing tester. It’s the perfect amount of crusty on the outside, while soft and airy on the inside. We think you’ll put your hipster bias aside for this loaf and embrace this artisan delight that even Paul Hollywood would approve of.
With just 5 ingredients, making bread should be simple. But sometimes we let it’s complexity and mystery overwhelm us. I was never the bread making type, and to be honest, I’m still not sure I am. There’s so many questions: Do I have to knead this? How much kneading is too much kneading? How do I know if the dough has risen? There’s a lot of variables for a food with so many few ingredients. However, with this recipe, I feel like I can actually pull this off, and I think you can too!
Some tips for fantastic Dutch Oven Artisan Bread
Use Bread flour-
Bread flour is not an ingredient that a lot of us think to pick up at the store. However, if you’re going to go through the trouble of making bread at home, we think it’s worth it to choose bread flour over All purpose. Because bread flour has a higher protein content, the dough builds up more gluten. This allows for more spring in the dough, creating that chewy, fluffy bread you desire.
If you use All purpose flour, you will probably still get a good result, but the dough may not rise as quickly or effectively. You may get a smaller overall loaf with not as much of that springy consitency.
Make sure your Instant yeast is fresh-
Your yeast should be stored in a container that is completely air tight, and not exposed to light. Keeping it in the refrigerator is a good solution for this. Under these conditions, it can last around 60 days.
The easiest solution, however, is buying Instant Yeast packets. Each packet contains about 2 teaspoons of dry active yeast. They come in sealed packages that keep the yeast in optimal conditions. Unless you use a lot of yeast on a regular basis, this is a great option for most people.
Sift the flour-
This ensures that the flour is evenly distributed throughout your dough and it is aerated properly. We use a fine mesh strainer at our house to accomplish this. If you don’t have a sifter or a fine mesh strainer, you can also use a whisk to whisk together the flour, yeast and salt so that it is properly aerated and distributed.
How do I knead the dough?
This part can be tricky for first time bread makers. This is an important step in the process. You will need to do this after the dough has been sitting for an hour. You can leave the dough in the bowl to knead.
The dough will be sticky at this point, so make sure you sprinkle a bit of flour around the sides of the dough in the bowl. Then just get your hands in there and get them dirty. You’ll want to knead the dough for about 2-3 minutes. You can accomplish this by folding the dough over itself multiple times, and then pressing down with both palms in a sort of rolling motion to flatten it again. Then repeat multiple times.
If you’ve never kneaded dough before, here’s a good visual tutorial on Youtube.
How do I form the dough into my loaf?
There’s no need to be too perfect with this step. Make sure you are transferring your dough from your bowl onto a well floured surface. You can then create a kind of circle or ball with the dough by going around the sides bit by bit, folding the dough under the bottom so that it creates a uniform circle. Just take your hands and shape the sides to be as round as possible. A lot of this will be instinctual, so don’t over think it!
Should I score my loaf?
It’s not absolutely necessary, but making at least one scoring mark across the top allows for the crust to cook more evenly.
If you want to keep it simple, using a sharp knife (paring knife works well), make about 1/4″ deep cut that runs approximately 2/3rds the length of the loaf. You can get creative here by making all sorts of designs.
Be sure to preheat your oven WITH the Dutch oven inside-
It’s important to have your dutch oven preheated to get burst of steam from the beginning of the cooking process. This traps the steam during baking so that the bread to forms an even crust. This mimics a commercial steam oven that many bakeries use.
Also, note this is better for the overall health of your pan. If you put a cold dutch oven into the oven when it has already reached temperature, you may get a burning smell and it could affect the integrity of your pan.
Want to enjoy this Artisan bread with some delicious soup? Try our Hearty Vegan Mushroom Stew!
Dutch Oven Artisan Bread
- Dutch Oven
- 4 cups bread flour
- 2 tsp instant dry yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 cups water (room tempurature)
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- Sift four into a large mixing bowl
- Add yeast and salt to the flour. Stir lightly to combine.
- Add maple syrup to water and stir until it is dissolved into the water.
- Add water/maple syrup mixture into the flour. Using a thin spatula or the opposite end of a wooden spoon, stir together until as much flour is incoporated into the dough as possible.
- Using your hands, work the remainder of the flour into the dough ball, folding and kneading as needed. Do not overwork dough.
- Cover bowl with a bread cloth, clean dish cloth, or saran wrap and let sit for 1 hour. (If using saran wrap, cover loosely so that it is not completely sealed and some air is allowed to circulate.)
- After 1 hour, uncover the dough and sprinkle a bit of flour around the edges of the dough ball. Using your hands, knead and fold the dough inside the bowl for about 2-3 minute, so that it is slightly aerated.
- Cover again and let rise for one additional hour, or until the dough has doubled in size from it's current size.
- Once dough has risen, place empty dutch oven including cover inside the oven and preheat oven to 475 degrees F (Important! Dutch oven and oven need to preheat together)
- While oven is heating, remove dough from bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface (cutting board or counter top). Lightly dust your hands with flour. Using your hands, shape the dough into a rough ball, folding edges under as needed. It will not be a perfect ball and will be somewhat flat, just shape as best you can and don't stress.
- Transfer dough ball carefully to center of a peice of parchment paper (sheet should be about 2 feet long, or long enough so that the paper comes at least 2" above the brim of your dutch oven on each side when flattened inside).
- Score the top of your dough with a sharp knife, making a cut that runs about 2/3rds of the length of the loaf and is about 1/4" deep. (See above blog post for more detailed instructions)
- Once oven has reached temperature, fill a small baking tray or oven safe dish with approximately 2 cups of hot water. Place on bottom rack of oven, or on same rack next to dutch oven if your oven does not allow for multiple racks.
- Remove dutch oven carefully from oven (Caution hot!) and remove cover. Place parchment paper with dough ball into center of the dutch oven. Replace cover and put back in oven on the center rack.
- Lower oven tempurature to 450 degrees F and bake for 25 minutes (If you know your oven runs cool, you may want to bake at 460 degrees F)
- Remove cover and continue to bake uncovered for an additional 25 minutes.
- Remove dutch oven from the oven. Carefully remove loaf and place on cooling rack or cutting board.
- Let sit for at least 10 minutes to cool before slicing.