Easy Dutch Oven Bread
For Basic Bread
1 cup very warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast (or one packet) (see Note)
pinch of sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 cups bread flour plus more for worksurface while kneading
2 teaspoons salt (see Note)
1/4 cup oil (see Note)
flake salt or raw sugar for topping
*special equipment: 4.5 quart or larger dutch oven with lid
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese + 1/2 cup chopped scallions + 1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan + 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves + 1 teaspoon cracked red pepper
1 tablespoon cinnamon (sift into the flour) + 1 1/2 cups raisins
2 teaspoons nutmeg (sift into the flour) + 1 cup toasted walnuts + 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup (reduce water by 1/2 cup) + 1 cup toasted pecans + 1/2 cup sugar
Add water, yeast and sugar to a bowl and let stand for several minutes until yeast becomes foamy and bubbly. Add all the other ingredients. Yep. Dump ’em in. Combine by hand or using the bread hook of your stand mixer. When mostly combined, remove the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for about 2 minutes.
Put the kneaded dough into a bowl and allow to rest in a warm, dry place for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Turn dough out onto the floured worksurface again (add more flour!) and knead the dough for 2 minutes or until it becomes smooth and uniform in appearance. Form the dough into a small ball and let rest while the oven preheats.
Once the oven is preheated, pour about 1-2 tablespoons of oil into the dutch oven. Add the dough, seam-side down. Using a very sharp knife, cut a deep cross into the top of the loaf allowing the dough to pull away from itself slightly. Pour an additional 2-3 tablespoons of oil over the dough – inside the cross and over the smooth areas too! – and sprinkle salt or sugar over the loaf. Cover with lid.
Place dutch oven inside the oven to bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn temperature down to 400 degrees and remove the lid from the pot. DO NOT STAND DIRECTLY OVER THE POT AS YOU REMOVE THE LID. HOT STEAM WILL RUSH OUT! Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the loaf feels firm and light for its size.
Allow loaf to cool 10-15 minutes before removing from the pot to slice. Use a bread knife to slice if possible. Enjoy!
Yeast: make sure you’re using live yeast that hasn’t expired!!! Also, the water you use should be around 110-120 degrees. Too hot and you can kill the yeast; too cold and it won’t activate.
Salt: reduce to 1/2 teaspoon for sweet breads
Oil: olive is good for savory, use canola or vegetable for sweet versions
Add ins: these are phenomenal in this bread, but the more things you add into the bread, the less your bread hook is going to work to knead the bread initially. If you use it to combine the ingredients then start having trouble, just dump the dough onto the countertop and knead by hand. It won’t kill you.
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