January: Dutch Oven Bread

For our first lesson of 2021 in the Better Baking Academy with Bob’s Red Mill, we took on a classic no-knead Dutch oven bread. This bread recipe is a favorite for a reason: bakers can make a supremely crisp, chewy, and flavorful loaf of bread with little to no effort on their part. Our Dutch Oven Bread receives a hearty boost from Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour and Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour. Beyond offering you a foolproof base recipe, we’ll take you through each step of the process, from shaping your boule to how to add in mix-ins and how to make the most of your trusty Dutch oven! Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson, or keep scrolling to view our digital lesson.

Before you get to baking, be sure to enter our Instagram giveaway to win a prize pack of baking essentials you’ll use in this lesson. The giveaway closes on January 31, 2021, so hurry to enter!

INGREDIENT BREAKDOWN

Great recipes require great ingredients. Here’s how each of our recipe’s six simple ingredients contributes to making an epic loaf.

Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour: The distinctive chew of a Dutch oven loaf calls for a high-protein flour. Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour offers plenty of protein to create a tight network of gluten. Even without the process of kneading, this strong flour will help give your bread plenty of sturdy structure and toothsome bite.

Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour: A hearty and earthy flavor booster, Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour adds a note of complexity to the Dutch Oven Bread. The term “whole wheat” refers to the fact that the whole wheat kernel gets ground into the flour. With other flours, the bran and germ are removed before the wheat is ground. The bran and germ impart plenty of nutrition and nutty flavor, adding a two-for-one bonus to our bread loaf.

Kosher salt: As a general rule of thumb, the ratio of salt to flour in breads is 1.8% to 2% of flour weight. It’s important to weigh your salt because different salt crystals measure differently. Dough without enough salt easily overferments. Salt also helps with crust color and enhances flavor.

Instant yeast: In contrast to active dry yeast, instant yeast contains 25% more living yeast cells because it is processed more gently. A single-celled organism, yeast will grow and multiply when it receives the following: moisture, food (sugar and carbs), and warmth. It leavens the dough by converting carbohydrates into carbon dioxide gas and alcohol.

Water: Moisture, in the form of warm water, is needed to activate the yeast. It also hydrates the dough so the gluten can develop, converting to steam in the oven to help leaven the dough and prevent the crust from forming too quickly and burning.

Bob’s Red Mill Semolina Flour: Rather than going in the dough, we use Bob’s Red Mill Semolina Flour for dusting specifically the bottom of our Dutch oven bread. Why? When breads are baked at a very high temperature, like pizza dough or our no-knead bread loaf, the bottoms can scorch and stick to your pizza stone or the bottom of your Dutch oven. A protective barrier of cornmeal or semolina flour helps protect your loaf from this pitfall. We prefer semolina flour over cornmeal for its finer texture, allowing all the crunch to come from the crust, not the cornmeal.

Dutch Oven Bread

A classic no-knead bread dough recipe should be as easy as it sounds. Instead, quality ingredients, time, and a Dutch oven should do all the work. This amazing recipe is no exception. Made with an earthy combination of Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour and Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour, our bread dough spends most of its time in the refrigerator, slowly fermenting and building flavor. Then, when it’s ready, we pop it into a piping hot Dutch oven, creating an unbeatable crisp crust and chewy crumb that rivals the best boules from a bakery.

5.0 from 5 reviews
Dutch Oven Bread
 
Makes 1 loaf
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together bread flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and yeast. (Add mix-ins, if desired.) Add 2 cups (480 grams) warm water; using the paddle attachment, beat at low speed until a sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds.
  2. Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°/24°C) until doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
  3. Turn out dough onto a heavily floured surface. Using floured hands, lightly press dough into a 1-inch-thick oval. Grab bottom edge, and gently stretch and fold bottom third over to center. Stretch right side out, and fold right third over to center; repeat with left side. Finish by folding top third over previous folds. Roll loaf away from you seam side down, and using both hands, cup dough and pull it toward you to seal. Turn dough 90 degrees, and pull again until a tight, smooth boule forms. Place, seam side up, in a banneton (proofing basket) or a medium bowl lined with a kitchen towel heavily dusted with bread flour. Loosely cover dough with towel, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) until puffed, 1 to 1½ hours.
  4. When dough has 30 minutes left to rise, place Dutch oven and lid in cold oven. Preheat oven to 500°F (260°C).
  5. Dust a piece of parchment paper with semolina flour, and turn out dough seam side down. Score dough, if desired. Carefully remove hot Dutch oven from oven; remove lid, and place dough, on parchment, in Dutch oven. Cover with lid, and place back in oven.
  6. Immediately reduce oven temperature to 425°F (220°C). Bake for 25 minutes. Remove lid, and bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of loaf registers 200°F (93°C), 20 to 30 minutes more. Immediately remove loaf from Dutch oven, and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing or storing.

 

Mix In Matrix 

Mix and match your favorite flavors to create your ideal Dutch Oven Bread with our guide

Magical Mix-in Combos

See how we made our own wild creations, following the handy mix-in matrix 

Herb & Olive Dutch Oven Bread
2 teaspoons (4 grams) herbes de Provence             
1½ cups (202 grams) kalamata olives, roughly chopped                                    

Sesame Orange Dutch Oven Bread
½ cup (64 grams) sesame seeds (half black, half white)
2 tablespoons (20 grams) tightly packed orange zest

Everything Jalapeño Dutch Oven Bread

½ cup (75 grams) ¼-inch-diced seeded fresh jalapeños
2 tablespoons (16 grams) everything bagel seasoning, plus 1 tablespoon (8 grams) on top

PRO TIP
Brush boule with water before sprinkling with everything bagel seasoning and then score.                                  

Cinnamon Pecan & Dried Fig Dutch Oven Bread
¾ cup (85 grams) pecans, chopped
¾ cup (96 grams) dried figs, chopped
2 teaspoons (4 grams) ground cinnamon

PRO TIP
When 2 large mix-ins are used, you divide each mix-in in half. Pecans and figs can be soaked together in hot water (160°F/71°C) for 30 minutes. Drain well.

Dill Havarti Dutch Oven Bread
8 ounces (226 grams) Havarti cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
2½ tablespoons (8 grams) chopped fresh dill

PRO TIP
Larger mix-ins make it harder to shape. If you are new to shaping, start with mix-ins that are not large in size (shredded cheese, herbs, seeds, etc.) and work your way up to larger mix-ins (cubed cheese, nuts, dried fruit, etc.).

Cold Fermentation Crash Course

Learn the microbial magic behind our no-knead Dutch oven bread’s tangy, sophisticated flavor

The Science: Before shaping or baking, your dough needs a nice cold rest. Why? Yeasted dough resting at room temperature works quickly to build rise (carbon dioxide) but not flavor (byproducts like alcohol). By placing your dough in the refrigerator, you’re casting your yeast under a lethargic spell, making it work much, much slower. It’ll still puff up, but now, you’re getting a boost in flavorful compounds. So, how long should you cold ferment? Ideally from 2 hours to overnight. Two hours is the bare minimum amount of time you owe your dough. The yeast has had enough time to do the bulk of its job, but expect a tighter crumb and less developed flavor than the overnight (about 18 hours) fermented doughs. After an overnight ferment, flavor has already vastly improved with the yeast slowly consuming sugar and generating its two essential byproducts: bubbly carbon dioxide (which affects the rise of your dough) and tangy alcohol (which affects the flavor).

Shape Your Dough: Round

Use gentle tucks, folds, and rolls to create a perfect domed boule 

1. Turn out dough onto a heavily floured surface. Using floured hands, lightly press dough into a 1-inch-thick oval. 

2. Grab bottom edge, and gently stretch and fold bottom third over to center. Stretch right side out, and fold right third over to center; repeat with left side. Finish by folding top third over previous folds. 

3. Roll loaf away from you seam side down, and using both hands, cup dough and pull it toward you to seal. 

4. Turn dough 90 degrees, and pull again until a tight, smooth boule forms. 

5. Place, seam side up, in a banneton (proofing basket) or a medium bowl lined with a kitchen towel heavily dusted with bread flour. Loosely cover dough with towel, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) until puffed, 1 to 1½ hours.

Shape Your Dough: Oval

Use gentle tucks, folds, and rolls to create a perfect domed batard 

1. Turn out dough onto a heavily floured surface. Using floured hands, lightly press dough into a 1-inch-thick oval.  

2. Grab bottom edge, and gently stretch and fold bottom third over to center. Stretch right side out, and fold right third over to center; repeat with left side. Finish by folding top third over previous folds.  

3. Roll loaf away from you seam side down, and using both hands, cup dough and pull it toward you to seal. The way you cup the dough here determines the oval shape. As opposed to rounding your hands around it, keep your fingers straight and box the loaf in rather than cupping around it. 

4. Turn dough 180 degrees, and pull again until a tight, smooth batard forms.  

5. Place, seam side up, in an oval banneton (proofing basket) or place, seam side down, on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper dusted with semolina flour. Loosely cover dough with towel, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) until puffed, 1 to 1½ hours.

Dutch Oven 101 

Pick the best pot for the job

The Science: Baking bread in a Dutch oven creates a high-heat environment that quickly kills the yeast and forces the bread to rapidly release its gases into an intense wave of steam, a process known as oven spring. Industrial ovens used in professional bakeries do this naturally, but at home, we need help from the Dutch oven lid to trap the steam in with the bread, hydrating the dough, effectively conducting heat, and helping it gain extra height. The steam also interacts with the starches on the bread’s surface, creating a crust with a subtle gloss. It leads to an epically crusted and crumbed loaf every time.

Material: You have two main choices: an enamel-coated cast-iron Dutch oven or a traditional black cast-iron Dutch oven. The difference is in the coating, but the results will remain the same as long as you have a well-seasoned pot. You just need a lid to cover it and the proper heat-conducting cast-iron material, and your bread will come out perfectly every time.

Size & Shape: Look for a 6- to 7-quart round or oval Dutch oven. Anything much smaller will keep the bread from rising properly and crust from forming. The 6- and 7-quart sizes yield the perfect round shape, with plenty of springy height. We prefer the round shape to accommodate a round boule, but oval will work as well, just shape your loaf into an oval (see: Shape Your Dough: Oval).

How to Score

Learn how to slice your dough for beautiful results 

Why: When we score, or slice, our dough, we’re creating a “weak spot,” making sure that the gases that rapidly release during oven spring will push in a chosen direction instead of producing an irregularly bubbled top. It’s not crucial, but it makes for a lovely loaf. 

Tools: You’ll need an exquisitely sharp blade, like a knife, razor blade, or lame (pronounced “lahm”). We prefer the lame because you can replace the disposable blade as it dulls, and the handle gives you the best ease of movement and feels like an artist’s stylus.

Method: Confidence is key. Decisive, shallow (¼- to ½-inch-deep) strokes with the blade ensure that the slits in the dough don’t appear jagged or irregular. Hold your blade at a 45 degree angle and use a light touch, as too much pressure will pop the air bubbles within. 

Design: The beauty of no-knead Dutch oven bread is its simplicity. But an expertly scored loaf offers home bakers a chance to add their unique signature. Start with a basic scoring pattern. A simple arched slash on the side creates a lunar-lip shape, or as the French refer to it, la grigne, “the grin” of the loaf. Also popular is the three-slash pattern, where three distinct slices are made across the middle of the loaf.  

From Preheat to Baking

You’ve formed and shaped your dough. Now, it’s time to bake.

1. When dough has 30 minutes left to rise, place Dutch oven and lid in cold oven. Preheat oven to 500°F (260°C). The revolutionary power of the Dutch oven lies in its ability to create a high-heat environment that forces the bread to rapidly release its gases into an intense wave of steam, a process known as oven spring. Don’t let it sit in the oven past 30 minutes, or the Dutch oven will scorch the bottom of your loaf.

2. Dust a piece of parchment paper with semolina flour, and turn out dough seam side down. Score dough, if desired. Carefully remove hot Dutch oven from oven; remove lid, and place dough, on parchment, in Dutch oven. You’re about to seal your dough in this hot Dutch oven—but why? The lid traps the steam in with the bread, hydrating the dough, effectively conducting heat, and helping it gain extra height. The steam also interacts with the starches on the bread’s surface, creating a glossy crust. During the process of oven spring, rapid growth in your bread is powered by active gases rushing up and toward the weak spots in the dough. By creating your own “weak spot” through scoring, you’re channeling the gases to push in your chosen direction instead of producing an irregularly bubbled top. However, this isn’t essential, and if you decide not to score, you’ll still end up with a beautiful loaf.

3. Immediately reduce oven temperature to 425°F (220°C). Bake for 25 minutes. You needed that first blast of intense heat to get your Dutch oven as hot as possible for that gift of oven spring. Mission accomplished. Now, you need to cut the temperature back down so you don’t burn your bread.

4. Remove lid, and bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of loaf registers 200°F (93°C), 20 to 30 minutes more. We want dark-crusted loaves, and without direct exposure to heat, you’ll get a pale loaf. Remove the top to allow the crust to color.

5. Immediately remove loaf from Dutch oven, and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing or storing.  A full cooldown rewards the bread baker with better taste and texture. This has to do with starch retrograde, where water continues to evaporate from the loaf, firming up the crumb and creating its pleasantly chewy texture.

37 COMMENTS

  1. I signed up for the 2021 Better Baking Academy in late December 2020. To date, I have not received the January 2021 lesson. I resigned up again today so I hope I will receive the rest of the 2021 lessons.

  2. Are there a few mistakes here ? In the “shape your loaf” section in both round and oval it says place the dough in the banneton seam side up and in the recipe it says seam side down. Also, in the “preheat to baking section” step 3 and 4 it doesn’t instruct to cook initially but to immediately reduce the temp and cook for 20-30 mins more.

    Thanks

    • Hi Kathryn,

      Thanks for reaching out! You can most definitely try this, although the heaviness of the cast iron allows for the appropriate heat distribution, so we really recommend a Dutch oven for best results. Perhaps you could borrow one and test it to compare the outcome? Also, just make sure that your stainless steel can handle this oven temperature– we would hate for anything to happen to that beautiful pot!

  3. Can you place the bread in a room temperature Dutch over and place in a cold oven and then heat to 450 and start timing when the temperature is reached?

    • Hi Katy,

      Thanks for reaching out! For this recipe, you’ll need that initial blast of heat that a preheated Dutch Oven provides in order to get a chewy, crispy crust. The revolutionary power of the Dutch oven lies in its ability to create a high-heat environment that forces the bread to rapidly release its gases into an intense wave of steam, a process known as oven spring. The lid traps the steam in with the bread, hydrating the dough, effectively conducting heat, and helping it gain extra height. The steam also interacts with the starches on the bread’s surface, creating a glossy crust. During the process of oven spring, rapid growth in your bread is powered by active gases rushing up and toward the weak spots in the dough. By creating your own “weak spot” through scoring, you’re channeling the gases to push in your chosen direction instead of producing an irregularly bubbled top. However, this isn’t essential, and if you decide not to score, you’ll still end up with a beautiful loaf. Overall though, you need that first blast of intense heat to get your Dutch oven as hot as possible for that gift of oven spring. Hope this helps!

  4. I’m anxious to try this bread recipe and I’m wondering if you have any recommendations on where to purchase a good quality banneton/round proofing basket. I’ve been wanting to get into sourdough breads and know I would use it a lot for bread baking, just looking for a quality one. Thank you!

    • Hi Lynette,

      Thanks for reaching out! We use proofing baskets from Williams Sonoma and there is a new company called FlourSide that offers sustainable options with different sizes and designs. Glad to hear that you will be getting into sourdough– it is wonderfully satisfying!

  5. best lesson ever. I have made bread for years by hand or in my bread machine. I am so excited to try a different method. This is just why I signed up for the classes , to learn something totally different

  6. My Dutch oven is 4 quarts. Assuming I can divide the dough in two bake the loaves on consecutive days, at which point in the process should I do so? Or is it better to cut the recipe in half? Also, would I adjust the baking time? Thank you!

    • Hi Renee!

      Thanks so much for reaching out. You can divide the dough after you let it rise overnight. The second portion of the dough can go back into the refrigerator for an additional day or two– the flavors will develop nicely. The one caveat with a smaller loaf is that the bread will have a higher outside to inside ratio, meaning that a good portion of the bread will be crust. If you don’t mind that small detail, then dividing the dough should work just fine. Hope this helps!

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for reaching out! The IGTV video has been posted here! Furthermore, Bob’s Red Mill and Bake from Scratch magazine are excited to present the 2021 Better Baking Academy, which now includes virtual workshops for each monthly module! Brian Hart Hoffman, editor-in-chief of Bake from Scratch, will teach each one-hour class and share baking tips, tricks, and recipes that you will want to re-create at home for loved ones. The January virtual class is only $10, and all money will be donated to No Kid Hungry, a national campaign to end childhood hunger in the United States. If you haven’t already signed up, head over to this link to be notified when each lesson is available!

  7. What a nice recipe for delicious bread!
    This was a great first lesson for the Better Baking Academy.
    I made the dough yesterday and left it in the fridge over night, baked it today and it is beautiful and delicious. Next time I’ll add some mix-ins. My family was quite impressed too.
    I’m looking forward to the next lesson.
    Happy Baking!

  8. I watched the Dutch Oven Bread Zoom yesterday. It was my first and quite enjoyable. Now I see all this additional information up on this website. Will I be able to come back later and access it or should I print it now?

  9. Thanks so much for this recipe. It is now my weekly bread. In my last loaf, I added raw pumpkin seeds and it turned out so tasty. Next week I’m going to add some rye flour with the bread flour to see how that works – with caraway seeds.

    Also, If I want to get it all done in one day, I knead the bread for ten minutes before letting it rise in the proofing basket so I don’t have to leave it overnight in the refrigerator and it turns out just as well. And sometimes it is so satisfying to knead bread.

    Thanks again.

  10. Hi,
    I think I must have done something wrong. my dough did not rise at all:(
    Are we supposed to let it rise in a warm place on the counter first for 2 hours then place it in the fridge for at least 2 more hours? I was watching the IG video and it looked like it went straight to the fridge once the dough was mixed. I did that but this morning there was no change in the dough. I am going to try it again today.
    thanks,
    Debbie

    • Hi Debra,

      Thanks for reaching out! For this recipe, the dough will rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°/24°C) until doubled in size, 1 1⁄2 to 2 hours before it it placed in the fridge. This gives the yeast a chance to become active, then the activity is slowed in the fridge to create the lovely flavor. If you placed it directly in the refrigerator after mixing, this may be the culprit. You could also make sure that your yeast is still active by doing a bloom test: https://redstaryeast.com/yeast-baking-lessons/yeast-shelf-life-storage/yeast-freshness-test/
      Hope this helps!

    • Hi Nancy,

      Thanks for reaching out! In the recipe, we have the mix-ins listed in the first step:
      1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together bread flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and yeast. (Add mix-ins, if using.) Add 2 cups (480 grams) warm water; using the paddle attachment, beat at low speed until a sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds.

      Best,
      Sandi

    • Hi Crystal,

      Thanks for reaching out! The whole wheat flour is a flavor booster, adding earthy and nutty flavors to the loaf. If you were interested in making a 100% bread flour loaf, you can substitute 156 grams of bread flour directly for the 156 grams of whole wheat flour. Let us know how it turns out, and happy baking!

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