Like most busy moms, I typically buy bread ready to go.
Sliced for sandwiches or a loaf of crusty bread that you can toss in a basket and break pieces off as you go.
But then, on another rainy day, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to just for a few minutes in the evening be transported to a B&B in the French countryside.
The smell of fresh-baked bread wafting out from the kitchen into the cozy great room.
A flight of full-bodied wines sitting on the leather tufted ottoman next to a fresh charcuterie board.
You, snuggling up under a warm, hand-knit blanket, wine glass in hand, laughing with old friends and newly arrived guests while the friendly chef places a fresh basket of warm bread in front of you and gently pours olive oil (of course made onsite) into a bowl for dipping.
A girl can dream!
And sure, I loooove fresh-baked bread, but who as time for hours of work?
But then I stumbled across the easiest, most delicious homemade crusty bread recipe.
You can create that fresh-baked bread smell and your own piece of paradise, right in your own kitchen!
It’s easier and less labor-intensive that you might think!
If you have a Dutch Oven with a lid (like a Le Crueset, Staub or the one handed down from your grandmother) – or a friendly neighbor who is willing to lend you one – then your home will smell like and French country kitchen in no time!
DUTCH OVEN CRUSTY BREAD
Crusty on the outside; fluffy on the inside
3 cups bread flour (you can substitute all-purpose flour)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl
Clear an area in the center for water (think the top of a volcano – like for gravy on mashed potatoes)
In a separate bowl add the yeast to the warm water and let it bloom (I didn’t know what this meant but it’s actually pretty obvious – the yeast immediately starts multiplying like those old school foam bath toys that would grow when they got wet in the tub)
Pour the water into the center of the flour mixture and mix together with clean hands (tip – get your hand wet before mixing so that less sticks to you).
Form it into a ball and leave it in the bowl.
Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel.
Let sit for about 8 hours at room temperature.
Place the Dutch oven in the oven while it pre-heats to 450 degrees.
Lay out a sheet of wax paper and sprinkle it with flour. Put the dough on the flour and gently sprinkle the outside if flour.
If you want to get fancy use a butter knife to add a couple of half-moon marks on the top of the round loaf that look like parenthesis with a space in the middle or your initial in the center.
Remove the warm pot from the oven.
Transfer the dough to the pot, cover it and return it to the oven for 35 minutes.
Remove the lid and cook for another 5-10 minutes (until golden brown).
Let the bread cool for 5 minutes
Slice and serve with olive oil or butter.
The key to this working out is having the pot covered – you need steam to get that good crust!
It’s okay if you don’t have that long for the bread to rise!
After making this several times, I find that the timeline for the bread to rise is very forgiving. If you only have 3-4 hours for it to sit, just double the yeast and roll with it. We’ve used more/less time on several occasions and each time it’s been super tasty.
Courtesy of VeryWell.