October 15, 2013

Dutch Oven Artisan Bread

Bread and butter goes together like, well... bread and butter!  And I would never dream of teaching y'all how to make homemade fresh sweet cream butter {here} and then just leave you hanging. So today, we have bread. And when I say bread, I mean yeasty, crusty, moist, dense, floury, gorgeous bread. This recipe is a staple that every person should know how to make. Again, with the holidays coming soon, I'm getting y'all ready with some easy recipes that pack both a big flavor punch and a big wow-appeal that you'll want to make for your friends and family.

I even think this artisan loaf would make the most beaUtiful gift! Wrapped in a kitchen linen and gifted with homemade butter or local honey. Who wouldn't swoon over fresh bread and honey?! Let's get to it, I'm excited to show ya! 

Let me say this real quick before I post the recipe. People ask me all the time about whether or not they need a Dutch oven. The answer is YES, you do. A Dutch oven is the most versatile piece of cookware that I use a zillion different ways. It is large enough for meats, soups, pastas, bakes, (this bread) and more. PLUS it goes from stovetop to oven which you. will. love. So the question is not Do I need a Dutch oven as much as it is What kind of Dutch oven do I need? There are Dutch ovens that range in price all over the place. But you want one that is heavy and big with a tight-fitting lid. So shop for one, find one, or ask for one for Christmas, but your life will be the better. NOOOOWWWW, let's get to it... on with the bread! 

 *hands-on time is approximately 15 minutes. total time is about 1.5 hours

4 - 4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 Tablespoons fresh yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 cups very warm water
1 1/2 Tablespoons salt 

Proof yeast by combining the yeast and the sugar in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer and then pour the very warm water over it.  Whisk it gently by hand to dissolve. Let is rest for 10 minutes until it expands and gets foamy.  

In a separate bowl, mix 3 cups of the flour with the salt.

With the dough hook attachment and the mixer speed on low, add the flour mixture one cup at a time to the yeast mixture until you have added all three cups. The dough will start to come together but will still be sticky.  Add in the rest of the flour in 1/2 cup increments until the dough completely comes together in a ball.  It may not take all of the flour. 

Let the mixer knead the dough for a few minutes. Then dump the dough onto a lightly floured counter and continue to knead {watch video on kneading here} for about five minutes or until the dough is smooth. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover the top with a lightly damp kitchen towel.  Let it rise for 20-30 minutes in a draft-free place and preferably a place where it's warmer. I usually sit mine on top of my stove.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with the Dutch oven inside.

Remove the towel on the bowl and carefully remove the ball of dough. Do NOT punch down the dough as you would in other recipes. Lightly coach both the bottom and top of the loaf with flour. Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven and just as carefully drop the dough in the center of the preheated Dutch oven.  Notice I said carefully. Well, be careful. Cut three slits in the top of the loaf which will give it the beautiful artisan appearance.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes with the lid ON, then remove the lid and bake for another 7-10 minutes until the top is golden and crusty.

Remove the bread from the Dutch oven onto a wood board and let it cool slightly before cutting with a serrated bread knife. 

I hope you made butter....you're gonna wish you had....