The Artisan Free-Form Loaf: Rustic Boule
Bread, we all love it. We hate to admit it, but we do. humanity has survived for thousands of years on its bounty alone, and it still remains one of the hardest things to accomplish to this day. Well not anymore! Follow these simple instructions to make a perfect loaf every time! This recipe is an adaptation from our friends over at "The new artisan bread in five minutes a day".
Mastering The Rustic Boule
the artisan free-form loaf
Makes: 4- 1 pound loaves (store remaining dough in the fridge for up to 14 days)
3 cups (24 ounces) water
1 tablespoon (.35 ounce) granulated yeast
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons (.6 to .9 ounce) kosher or other coarse salt, to taste
6 1/2 cups (2 pounds) unbleached all-purpose flour, measured by the scoop-and-sweep method
1 tablespoon smoked sea salt flakes (for the topping of bread)
1/2 cup chopped rosemary (only used in herbal variant)
Warm the 3 cups water just a little so that it feels just slightly warmer than body temperature. In the large bowl of a standing mixer or a 6-quart container with a lid, mix the yeast, warm water, and salt. Add the flour all at once, then use a spoon or stand mixer to mix until the flour is completely incorporated and you have a blobby dough. (If you’re hand-mixing the dough and it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, just use very wet hands to press the mixture together.) Don’t knead the dough! It’s not necessary. You just want the dough to be uniformly wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container. Don't worry if the dough is a bit lumpy at this point, just make sure there are no dry patches of flour.
Loosely cover the container and let the dough rise at room temperature until it begins to flatten a little on the top, about 2 hours.
After 2 hours, store the container of dough in the fridge. That’s it. (If your container isn’t vented, you want to ensure the gases can escape by leaving the cover open a crack for the first couple days in the fridge; after that, you can seal it.) You can use the dough anytime after the initial 2-hour rise, although the refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and easier to work with than dough at room temperature, so it’s best to refrigerate the dough overnight before handling it. Once refrigerated, the dough will seem to have shrunk back upon itself as though it will never rise again—that’s normal. Whatever you do, do not punch down this dough. You’re trying to retain as much gas in the dough as possible, and punching it down knocks gas out and results in denser loaves. Just be certain to use the dough at some point within 14 days.
When you want to bake a loaf of artisan bread, dust a baking sheet lined with parchment paper with flour. Grab a fist sized hunk of the dough and use scissors to cut off a 1-pound piece of dough. Hold the dough in your hands and, if necessary, add just enough flour so the dough doesn’t stick. (What you’re trying to do is surround the surface of the dough with flour so that it can be handled). Gently stretch the surface of the dough, tucking the ends underneath the ball and rotating it a quarter turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off, and that’s okay, because as we just said, it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the ball of dough may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking. Your round loaf of bread should be smooth and cohesive, and the entire shaping process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds—don’t work the dough any longer or your loaves may be dense. Place the shaped ball of dough on the prepared pizza peel and let it rest for about 40 minutes. It doesn’t need to be covered.
Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Preheat a cast iron dutch oven on the middle rack of the oven.
Dust the top of the raised loaf generously with flour and, using a serrated bread knife, slash a 1/2-inch-deep cross or tic-tac-toe pattern in the top. There’s no need to dust the flour off the loaf.
Grab the entire sheet of parchment paper with dough and insert it into the now preheated cast iron, dutch oven. Cover with the lid and bake the bread for 20 minutes.
At this point you can remove the lid from the dutch oven, add a small pinch of sea salt to the top and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch.
Let the loaf cool completely, preferably on a wire rack for the best flavor, texture, and slicing
For a variant on this recipe mix in the 1/2 cup of chopped rosemary while you mix the initial batch of dough.
For another variant add a few cloves of garlic, minced well to the dough.