Artisan Cast Iron Dutch Oven Bread

This recipe is a typical one with two rising periods.  Most of this time it's the yeast working and not you!

2 cups water
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon salt
6 cups bread flour
Toppings of your choice - I used "everything bagel" topping

Proofing the Yeast:

Pour the water, hot from the tap, into a mixing bowl.  Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves.  As the water dissolves the sugar and warms the bowl, it cools somewhat and should be just right for activating the yeast - somewhere between 95 and 115 degrees is fine.  Add the yeast and let the mixture sit for 5 or 6 minutes until it begins to bubble and show signs of life.

Don't add the salt yet.  Yeast doesn't like salt and will be happier if you add it after you stir in the first cup of flour.  

Stir in your first cup of flour into the yeast mixture and add the salt.  Then stir in 4-1/2 cups more flour.  When the dough begins to hold together and pull away from the sides of the bowl, it is ready to knead.

If you like to knead by hand, by all means do so.  I use the dough attachment of my stand mixer.  Knead for 3 to 4 minutes adding a little flour at a time so the dough is not sticky.  Let rest for 15 minutes and continue kneading another 3 to 4 minutes.

First Rising

Form the dough into a nice, round ball and place it in your greased bowl, turning it over so the top has a thin layer of oil on it.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel or a piece of plastic wrap.  It's a good idea to grease the underside of the plastic wrap so that it won't stick if the dough comes in contact with it.  Put the dough in somewhere cozy and let it rise until doubled in bulk.  This will take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.  After it has risen, punch the dough down and cover it and return it to it's cozy spot.  Let rise again - about 45 minutes.

Shape the loaf tucking the ends underneath into the center - this will be the bottom of your loaf.  Turn the loaf over and tidy it up if necessary.  Place is on a piece of parchment paper a little bigger than your dutch oven.  Cover with a towel while we preheat the oven.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees

Place your dutch oven, top and bottom in to preheat for 30 minutes.

When your oven is ready, remove both top and bottom of heated dutch oven (careful!).
Pick up your loaf with the parchment paper and place it in the bottom half.  Use a mister spray to spray your loaf.  Sprinkle with your favorite toppings and cut two slits with scissors or a razor.  Cover the pot and place it in the oven.  Let bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove cover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until crust is golden brown.

The dutch oven is the secret to a fabulous homemade bread!
Take out some butter to soften while the bread cools and enjoy!


~Adapted from King Arthur Flour Cookbook


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