A couple years ago I bought Tartine Bread, and I had all these big dreams of making perfect, thick-crusted, hole-ridden sourdough bread – the kind that makes you wonder how run-of-the-mill grocery-store sourdough can even pass as edible. It quickly became obvious that the book is worth it’s salt because just adapting a few techniques from it completely transformed my own go-to sourdough, but like pretty much every other cookbook I own, it sits neglected on the counter more often than not simply because I’m terrible at making use of cookbooks. Like I’ve said before, I love looking at them but fail at actually using them.
Even so, skimming through Tartine is what inspired me to buy a Dutch oven, and ever since then I’ve been dying to make a good dutch oven loaf to share on the blog. They do wonders for an otherwise ordinary bread recipe to give you that rustic-style loaf with a hearty, crunchy crust, which is exactly what I aim for when I dream of homemade bread. So finally, we’re crossing that off the list today with this loaf. It’s got that artisan look, a thick, golden crust, and a tight but extra-tender crumb. It might not be sourdough but it is a pretty fantastic bread – the kind that feels warm and comforting and suits just about any meal.
As far as yeast breads go, this one is pretty uncomplicated to put together. A few shaping steps adapted from Tartine are about as hard as it gets, and even that really just comes down to a couple simple folds. And if you don’t own a dutch oven, I can’t recommend one enough! I have a Lodge cast-iron combo cooker, which essentially gives you a dutch oven and a cast iron pan in one, and the possibilities for using it are endless… think cookies, brownies, and crumbles (just to name a few!). Even if you just use it to make bread, it’s worth the purchase. You’ll believe me as soon as you make your first loaf, slice it while it’s hot, slather it with butter, and take a big bite. Tell me then that it’s not a necessity! ;)
A recipe for a hearty artisan boule (a French-style, free-form round loaf) with a thick, crunchy crust and tender crumb.
- 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) warm water (110º-115ºF)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 12 3/4 ounces (3 cups, spoon and level) bread flour
- 4 1/4 ounces (1 cup, spoon and level) whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- whole wheat pastry flour, for dusting
- white rice flour, for dusting
- Stir sugar into warm water to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast on top and stir in with a wooden spoon. Let sit until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. Add yeast mixture and mix in as best as possible with wooden spoon. Use hands to work together into a single ball of dough.
- Turn dough out onto counter and knead for 8-10 minutes, until dough is soft, supple, and elastic, adding a bit more flour or water if needed. Dough should be quite tacky, but not enough to get stuck to hands or counter.
- Shape dough into a smooth ball, and transfer to a greased bowl about double its size, turning once to coat both sides in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours.
- Remove risen dough from counter and knead briefly to redistribute gas. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line a clean bowl with a thin kitchen linen and dust generously with a 50/50 combination of whole wheat pastry flour and rice flour.
- Making tight folds, fold the third of dough closest to you over the middle third, followed by the third on the right, the third on the left, and finally the third farthest away. Fold side closest to you over last fold and roll seam underneath. Cup dough with palms and gently rotate while pulling outer edges underneath in order to ensure round is tight. Place in prepared bowl, seam-side up, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise another 30-45 minutes. Towards the end of this time, preheat oven to 450ºF with dutch oven placed on middle rack.
- Just before baking, dust exposed surface of dough with flour mixture. Carefully turn dough over into hot dutch oven, using shallow (frying pan) side if available.* Use a sharp knife to slash top of loaf in a square pattern. Transfer to preheated oven, cover with other half of dutch oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover, reduce temperature to 375ºF, and bake about 10 minutes longer, until loaf is golden-brown on top and internal temperatures measures approx. 210ºF.
- Use oven mitts to carefully transfer loaf to a wire rack to cool. Loaf is best served the day of baking for ultimate crust texture, but any leftovers may be stored in an airtight zip-top bag at room temperature.
*Although any dutch oven should work fine here, I'd recommend a cast iron dutch oven combo cooker (I own this one). I prefer to use it with the shallow side on the bottom for this recipe, since it makes it much easier to transfer the dough to the hot pan and slash the loaf.
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