Active: ~1 hour
Time in oven: ~1 hour
Total time:18-24 hours
1# All-purpose flour (weighed directly in your KOMAX 5.2 liter container)
.5 T kosher salt
.75 t active dry yeast
1.5 C warm water
A large mixing bowl or tupperware container (I love this KOMAX 5.2 liter container)
Dutch Oven (I have an old fashioned, 'stick handle' Le Creuset 20 (2.75 QT/2.5 L) that is perfect. The updated version should be just as good. I've used other dutch ovens, but I've found the Le Creuset to be the perfect size and shape.
Flour sack towel
- Combine first three ingredients. Add water and stir. Dough will be much wetter than any bread dough you've ever worked with. Some people describe it a shaggy. Everything is fine.
- Loosely cover KOMAX container and set someplace warm (in my old kitchen, I had a farm table that sat on top of a heat vent - in my current kitchen, I just put it on top of the coffee maker. Now it's time to wait.
- 10-14 hours later, the dough will have increased about 3 times and be full of beautiful air bubbles. Now it's time toe develop the gluten. With a wet hand, grab one corner of the dough and stretch it up, without letting it break. Rotate the container one quarter turn, and stretch the dough again. Repeat until you've stretched all four corners. This is part of why I like the square KOMAX container. Now it's time to wait.
- After an hour, put your dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 450 fahrenheit (232 centigrade).
- Turn out the dough onto a well floured surface (I just use a cutting board). It'll be sticky, so use plenty of flour.
- Now it's time to develop the gluten cloak. Fold the dough onto itself, making a dough ball with flour on the outside. With well floured hands, draw the dough ball across your cutting board, tightening the outsides of the ball and making a seam on the bottom. Turn the ball 90 degrees and draw it across the surface again. Repeat until the outside of the ball is nice and stretched, but has not broken.
- Place the dough ball, seam side down, on a well floured towel. Cradle the towel and dough ball in a small mixing bowl (mine is 1.2 liters). Allow to rise for at least 10 minutes, but no more than an hour and a half (less, if it's especially warm). Don't worry if the ball seems small - it'll expand in the heat of the oven.
- When the dutch oven is nice and hot, invert the dough ball from the towel into the dutch oven, so the seam will be on top. Cover the dutch oven and return it to the hot oven.
- After half an hour, remove the lid from the dutch oven and rotate it 180 degrees to even out the heat.
- After 15 minutes, rotate the dutch oven again 180 degrees, bringing it back to its original orientation.
- After 15 minutes, turn out the boule and thump it on the bottom to see if it's ready. If not, return it to the oven for another few minutes.
- Put on a cooling rack and let cool for at least an hour before slicing. Enjoy the sound of the crust crackling as it cools.
- Add 1/3 cup of spent grains from whole grain beer brewing - reduce water by 1-2 T
- Add 1/2 cup of chopped kalamata olive - replace 1/4 cup of water with olive brine
- Add 1/2 cup of chopped goat cheese and some chopped rosemary
Why is this dough so wet?
- A good hard crust develops in the presence of steam. A commercial oven (costing 10s of thousands of dollars) will allow you to add steam, but that's unrealistic for the home baker. Instead of injecting steam into the oven environment, we're adding extra moisture into the dough, and then capturing the steam inside the dutch oven.
- The small amount of yeast in the very wet dough will chew it's way through the sugars and starches in the flour, developing a good flavor profile. If you're in a hurry, you can use 1 T of yeast, and it'll be ready to stretch in 2 hours or so, but the bread won't be as tasty.
- Stretching the dough helps develop the strands of gluten. This leads to a more chewy crumb and a crunchier crust.
- Stretching the outside of the ball further develops the gluten in the dough and helps you develop a better crust. The crust would be much less crispy if you didn't do this.
- Most bread is undercooked. This boule is all about making a nice, crunchy and flavorful crust. If you only baked this bread for half an hour, it would probably be edible, but you wouldn't get all the rich caramel flavors in the crust that come from the Maillard reaction. I've never burned this recipe. I imagine that it could bake for quite a bit longer, without any ill effects. I'll try that next.
- Yes. It's hotter than the manufacturer recommends. The outside of the pot will discolor. If the handle on the lid is made of bakelite, it may eventually crack (mine did, just recently, after baking this bread at least once a week for YEARS, and now I need to find a metal handle). The Le Creuset is the perfect size and shape for this recipe and it's a tool that's meant to be used. I'm more interested in feeding people good bread, than I am in owning immaculate bakeware. You may assess that differently. If I had a cast iron dutch oven that was the right size and shape, I'd use that, but all the ones I've seen are too wide.
Why are you so excited about the KOMAX box, instead of a mixing bowl?
- If you bake this recipe regularly (around once a week or so), you can keep your KOMAX box in the fridge, without scrubbing the box clean between batches. The small amount of yeast and dough left in the box will develop a much more rich, almost sourdough flavor. Of course, if any mold begins to grow in the dough, you should scrub out and sterilize the box thoroughly.