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This method is perhaps the most foolproof way of creating an artisan loaf with that to-die-for crackly, sheened crust. The Dutch oven minimizes the baking cavity, trapping moisture and steaming the loaf, similar to a professional steam oven.

BEFORE YOU START: The short rest after mixing is called an autolyze. This process aids proper gluten formation and development, creating a more consistent crumb in the finishing loaf.

KEEP SCREEN ON

Yield: 2 LOAVES

Cook Time: 35-45 Minutes

Ingredients
SPECIAL SUPPLIES
Digital kitchen scale

Bench scraper

Proofing basket or banneton, optional

INGREDIENTS
1000 grams (about 7 cups) all-purpose flour

720 grams (about 3 cups) water at 90–95°F

1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1½ teaspoons instant dried yeast

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Preparation Method

Autolyze and Mix

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large round bowl. Mix by hand until incorporated. Cover bowl with a towel and let rest 20–30 minutes.
  2. Mixing by hand, reach underneath dough and fold it over itself, repeating as you work around the bowl. Continue until the dough comes together, three to four folds. Let rest for about a minute, then repeat another fold; dough should feel tight.
  3. Cover bowl with a towel and let rise.

Bulk Fermentation and Fold

  1. During bulk fermentation, or first rise, the dough requires at least two folds. Perform the folds during the first 1–2 hours of rise. To fold, start by gently loosening dough from the bowl with a moistened spatula or hand. Without tearing, fold dough in half. Rotate bowl a quarter turn and repeat the same fold. Rotate and repeat again. Finally, rotate one last quarter turn, gently pull dough up and over itself, creating a pillow-like dough package.
  2. Cover bowl with a towel and let rise after each fold. After the dough triples in size, about 5 hours after mixing, it is time to divide and bake.
  3. Gently tip dough onto floured work surface. Cut dough in half with a bench scraper.

Shape and Proof

  1. Dust two proofing baskets (or two metal bowls lined with kitchen towels) with flour.
  2. Shape dough; using the same method above, fold dough over itself, working in quarter turns around the dough until it forms a medium-tight ball. Place dough in basket, seam side down.
  3. Cover with towel and let proof. Proofing can take 1–2 hours, depending on the temperature of the kitchen. To determine readiness, use the finger dent test; lightly push in the dough with index finger. If the dough springs back slowly, it is ready to bake.

Bake

  1. While the dough proofs, preheat oven to 475°F Convection Mode with a rack at position “2.”
  2. Preheat Dutch oven with lid for at least 45 minutes. Carefully remove dough from proofing basket and place seam side up in preheated Dutch oven.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes with lid on, then remove lid for the last 15 minutes. Carefully observe the crust during last 10 minutes of baking as to avoid overbrowning.
  4. Once fully baked, remove bread from Dutch oven immediately. The loaf should tip out easily. Cool on wire rack for 15-20 minutes before slicing.
  5. Place the Dutch oven back into the oven for 15 minutes and allow to preheat. Repeat the baking process with the remaining dough.