This loaf and I go a long way back. I used to make a version of this recipe a LOT, so I promise you, it will not disappoint. And it’s Easy with a capital ‘E‘. The only hard thing about it, is the wait for the dough to rest, followed by the agonizing 1-hour baking time, where the waft of fresh bread can be a real test of self control. But patience is a virtue, right? It has that perfect springy texture on the inside, and a thick, hearty crust on the outside. My husband and I would devour half of it before it hit the table, standing at the counter, hovering over this piping hot beauty, the wrapper from the cultured butter ripped open next to it. We couldn’t speak, there was no need, slice after slice, we just couldn’t stop. If eating bread was sexy, we had it down pat. Then one day, towards the end of that winter, we realized our jeans seemed to be getting tighter and something had to give. So we took a step back from the loaf. We were on a break, Ross & Rachel style.
The other day I was making soup for dinner and my favorite bakery was closed. I wanted a crusty loaf that I could tear into chunks and have with my black bean soup. I decided to give the loaf another chance, surely we had developed some self control over the years? Whilst looking for the old recipe, I stumbled across @girlversusdough’s version which was even less work than my old recipe. Four ingredients? No kneading vs ‘almost no kneading’? Lo and behold (cue angelic symphony 👼 🎶 🎺 ) it was just as good as I remembered.
The original recipe uses white flour, but I mixed in some whole wheat flour (and the health coach in me has to sneak ground flax into everything!). I made some adjustments as different flours absorb water differently. If you want to make a white loaf, just follow the instructions in the notes below. This came out pretty darn perfect, even if i say so myself. You do need a Dutch oven (deep cast-iron pan) with a lid and I’m telling you now...8-18 hours of resting time. But I only let it rest for 7 hours and it was still spectacular. Go on, give it a whirl, you know you want to!
Ingredients for 1 loaf
2 cups (250g) all purpose flour*
1 cup (130g) whole wheat flour
1/4 cup (37g) ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups (475ml) warm water (110-120F/ 43-48C)**
6-quart (5.6L/ approx. 24cm diameter x 10cm deep) Dutch oven with lid/ cast iron pot
In a large bowl, combine the flours, flaxseed, yeast and salt. Add the water and mix it in until a shaggy dough forms. It should be sticky and messy looking, and just firm enough to hold a shape.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it aside for 8-18 hours until bubbles form on the surface.
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Place the empty Dutch oven with its lid, in the oven and let it heat up for half an hour. This part is the key to that amazing crust.
Whilst the Dutch oven is warming, punch down the dough and lightly flour a square of parchment paper. Transfer the dough to the parchment paper and shape it into a ball. Sprinkle the top with flour, cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit until the Dutch oven is ready. Remove the plastic wrap and transfer the dough, parchment paper and all, to the HOT (!!!) pot, cover it with the lid and bake for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, remove the lid and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, ten is usually enough. The loaf should have a gorgeous golden brown crust and sound hollow when tapped. Transfer to a cooling rack, but who are we kidding...just get a bread knife and tuck in :)
*to make white bread, use 3 cups (375g) all purpose flour, omit the whole wheat flour, and reduce the water to 1-1/2 cups (355ml).
**the humidity and type of flour you use will influence how much you need. You want a sticky dough that will loosely hold its shape.