Super easy, few ingredients, this is a great way to begin baking bread. You can do this with zero specialized equipment, other than a Dutch oven or covered casserole pot. The actual baking of bread is a combination of temperature, humidity, and time. A more humid oven will make a heavier crust. So, you can spray the loaves with water when putting them in the oven. You can have a shallow pan with water on a lower rack for added humidity. You can even just chuck a half cup of water right on the bottom of the oven and quickly close the door.
Or, you can contain the steam being put out by the baking bread by containing it in a Dutch oven or casserole. That is the main why behind using the covered cooking device, to make a heavier crust on the bread. Typically you leave the cover on for the first half or two thirds of the baking time, then remove it for the bread to color up. You also preheat the pot so that it is at oven temp when you put the bread in, again, making nice crustiness.
As you will see in the pictures, we used a Banetton – a rattan basket specifically for bread on the rise – but it is certainly not necessary. If you do this often it does make for a consistently shaped good looking loaf, so it doesn’t hurt to own one. Without the basket, don’t flour the bottom of your dough after shaping, and place it on a piece of parchment while it rises. You will put the loaf, paper and all, into the Dutch oven for baking. Not flouring it will keep the bottom tackier, sticking somewhat to the parchment as it rises, making the loaf’s shape grow nicely upward.
The other, optional, specialized item is a ‘Lame’; basically a razor blade on a stick. It is used to make a deep cut, or cuts, in the top of your dough loaf to let the steam escape while baking and to avoid splitting open while baking. We do the same thing without the stick, just use a disposable razor blade or very sharp thin bladed knife.
If you like easy, this is for you. In a bowl;
- 3 cups flour, bread or all purpose
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
Add 1¼ cups warm water. Mix to make a shaggy dough. Cover tightly with plastic film and let it ferment for 12-20 hours. After it has doubled in size, turn the dough on to a well-floured counter or board. Quickly shape into a ball with the least amount of ‘working’ the dough that you can. Either flip it over and place it in a well-floured basket, or place it on parchment on a flat surface. Let rise until doubled again, about 3 hours.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. When it has reached temperature, preheat the Dutch oven for about 10 minutes. If you used a basket, flip your loaf out onto a piece of parchment. Take the Dutch oven out, remove the lid. Lift your loaf by the parchment paper corners and place in the Dutch oven. Make a quick cut or two deeply in the top, put the lid on and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove the lid, reduce the temperature to 375 and continue baking for another 20 minutes. You can check the internal temperature, looking for 190+, although it should be cooked through. Let cool outside the Dutch oven for about 10 minutes, slice and serve.