Dutch Oven French Bread

Homemade bread ranks somewhere in the same category as my love for chocolate, wine and cheese. However, something about actually making homemade bread myself has always intimidated me. Not only is it time-consuming but the thought of kneading bread has me stressed out just reading the directions. How will I know if I kneaded the bread enough? Too much? Is the dough springing back and elastic? These questions have always had me running far far away from adding yeast to anything.

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I have heard about baking bread in a Dutch oven for some time now, but seeing as how I don't do yeast I have tried not to give it much thought. However, I have to say I was somewhat curious seeing that many of the recipes I came across called this bread "fool-proof" and continuously stressed "how very simple it is to make." After waiting far too long I finally decided I was going to do this. I followed this recipe except I substituted half whole wheat flour for the all-purpose. The end result was this hearty, round, rustic loaf of goodness that may or may not of had me doing a happy dance around my kitchen.

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Yes, this bread takes several hours from start to finish to make but very little hands on time is actually needed. Most of the time is spent waiting for the dough to rise.  Before placing the dough in the oven cut a diagonal with a knife lightly across the top of the loaf. This will allow a bit if steam to escape during baking, resulting in a crispy crust and a fancier bread.

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This thing of beauty had me staring in amazement as I pulled it out of the oven. With a thick, crispy crust and a soft, chewy interior, this French bread is perfect for dipping or spreading with your favorite butter or jam.

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Dutch Oven French Bread
Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
cooking spray
olive oil
1 1/2 cups warm-water

Directions:
Combine the flour, water, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 10 minutes. Depending on the size of the bowl, you may need to stop the mixer and remove the dough from the dough hook if the dough is not developing thoroughly. When the dough looks smooth, cut off a piece and stretch it. If it stretches to the point of transparency, it’s mixed enough. If not, continue mixing.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover it with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size (approximately 4 hours).
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead it several times to release the gas and redistribute the yeast. Shape it roughly into a ball, cover it with a towel, and let stand for 10 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.
Shape the dough into a tight ball – the tighter the better – by rolling it on the work surface between your palms.
Spray the bottom and sides of a large Dutch oven or other heavy ovenproof pot (5 1/2 quarts or larger). Put the dough in the center of the pot and place the lid on. Allow the dough to rise again, 30 to 60 minutes (less if it’s very hot and humid, more if it’s cold).
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Rub 1 tablespoon olive oil, or more if you like, gently over the surface of the dough. Score the bread with a sharp knife, making an X on top; this will allow the dough to expand freely. Sprinkle dough with salt. Cover the pot and place it in the oven.
After 30 minutes, remove the lid, reduce the oven temperature to 375 F, and continue baking until the bread is nicely browned and cooked through.(10-15 minutes). It should have an internal temperature of 200 F or so when done.
Allow the bread to rest on a rack for at least 30 minutes so the interior finishes cooking.

 

Allie

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