Master Recipe: Kneaded Bread Boule
Boule refers to the shape of this classic rustic bread, which is round. This recipe will get you started in the direction of creating more beautiful and creative breads now that you have the basics well in hand. We will advance you to kneading and development, shaping beautiful loaves, and scoring your breads. Once you feel comfortable, and after a bit of practice, enjoy playing with the other recipes in this chapter to introduce new flavors to your breads!
MAKES 2 LOAVES
PREP TIME: 25 minutes (5 minutes to mix the dough, 10 minutes to knead the dough, and 10 minutes to divide and shape the dough)
INACTIVE TIME: 1 hour to rest, 3 hours to rise, 1 to 2 hours to proof the dough and preheat the oven
BAKE TIME: 40 to 45 minutes
TOOLS NEEDED: thermometer, kitchen scale, large bowl, metal dough scraper, 2 round baskets, 2 kitchen towels, Dutch oven
8 grams instant yeast
720 grams water
1,000 grams all-purpose flour
20 grams salt
- PREPARE: Find the ambient temperature of your kitchen with a thermometer. A great way to do this is to take the temperature of your flour while it is sitting out at room temperature. Take a look at the chart here to see what temperature water you need for your dough. I find the easiest way to get my water to the correct temperature is to fill a pitcher or jar with hot water and one with cold water from the tap. I pour the cold water into the hot water until I’ve reached the ideal temperature. The desired dough temperature here is 75°F.
- SCALE: Weigh all of the ingredients separately before you begin. This helps keep everything accurate. Use smaller bowls for ingredients in smaller amounts, like yeast and salt, to get the most precise reading.
- COMBINE: Disperse the yeast into the water with a gentle swish of your fingers, like making a bubble bath. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. You should see a light foaming from the yeast, letting you know that it is feeling lively and ready to go to work for you. Next, add the flour on top of the water and yeast. Last, sprinkle the salt on top of the flour. This keeps it from coming into direct contact with the yeast, which can inhibit the rise.
- MIX: Mix by hand, or use a plastic dough scraper to help. When evenly combined, the mixture should come together relatively easily and produce a wet but firm dough.
- REST: Let your dough relax for about 30 minutes so the flour can absorb the water a bit. This will make it easier to knead.
- KNEAD: Flour your work space and scrape the dough out onto it. The way I describe kneading to my kids is to “push and fold!” Push forward into your dough with the heels of your hands, and then fold the elongated dough back toward you. Give the dough a quarter turn. Then push the dough away and fold it back again. Keep kneading until you can feel that the dough has tightened up and has gotten smoother, usually 5 to 10 minutes. Pop your dough back into the bowl.
- RISE: Place a floured kitchen towel (or plastic wrap if that’s what you have) over your bowl, and go enjoy your life for 3 hours.
- CHECK: Now that your dough has risen for 3 hours, it should be noticeably lighter, larger, and filled with air bubbles. To double-check, fill a cup with water, pinch off a little ball of your dough, and drop it into the glass. It should float to the top, indicating that your dough is aerated. If it doesn’t seem particularly buoyant, it might be a cold day at your house. Let it rise a bit longer and check it again in 30 minutes or so.
- DIVIDE AND PRESHAPE: Using a metal dough scraper, pull your dough onto a floured countertop or bread board and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Take your dough scraper and round each piece of dough by sliding the scraper underneath the far side of the dough and pulling it toward you, making the underside of the dough pull tighter. Giving it a quarter turn each time, repeat this motion to round your dough until you have developed tension across the surface of your loaf, stopping before it becomes too tight and starts to tear.
- BENCH REST: Rest your 2 rounded pieces of dough on the work surface for 30 minutes, which will give it time to relax before shaping. Dust with flour and lightly cover with a kitchen towel.
- SHAPE: Sprinkle flour on your work surface. Too much flour and your dough will slide around and not have the tension needed to be shaped. Too little flour and your dough will stick to you and your work surface. Think of it as a thin veil of flour on your work surface. To start shaping, turn one of the dough rounds over so the smooth side is resting on the floured work surface. Grab the far side of the dough and fold it down a third to the center, sealing it into a seam. Continue like you did with the no-knead bread, folding it like a letter, turning a quarter turn, and folding like a letter again. Now turn the loaf over with the seam down and cup your hands around the base of the far side of the loaf, pulling it toward you and building the tension of the loaf. Give it a turn and recreate this pulling motion from all angles, building a balanced tension all over the loaf without tearing the skin of the dough. Repeat with the other round of dough.
- PROOF: Place each dough round into a proofing basket lined with a floured kitchen towel, seam-side up, and let rise for 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes, until the dough feels airy, like a marshmallow. When pressed with a finger, it should leave an indent instead of springing back up.
- PREHEAT: While the dough is proofing, place an empty Dutch oven inside the oven and preheat to 475°F. This may seem like a long time to preheat an oven, but great bread needs a thoroughly hot oven for success. This is the final rise before it hops into the oven.
- CHECK: To test that the dough is well proofed, press a finger gently into the dough. If it feels airy and light (like a marshmallow), it’s ready to bake. Needing more time for proofing is a common theme in baking bread. Don’t let it worry you if your dough needs more time to rise! Feeling the dough and adapting to the timing needs every time you bake bread is the way to become a better baker, so let your senses guide you.
- BAKE: Flour your work surface well and tip 1 dough round out of a basket onto it, seamside down. Carefully pull your very hot Dutch oven out of the oven and place it on top of the stove with the lid next to it. Make 2 deep slashes in the top of the dough with a razor blade or lame, making a big X. This will allow your loaf to spring upward in all directions and rise while it bakes. Pick the dough up with your hands and gently drop it into the pot, seam-side down and be careful to avoid burning your hands. Cover the Dutch oven with the lid, slide it into the oven, and bake for 25 minutes.
- CHECK: At 25 minutes, take the cover off the Dutch oven. You should see a pale blond loaf that has risen to meet you. Continue baking with the cover removed for another 15 to 20 minutes. Your loaf will get some color and develop a nice crust. The finished loaf should be golden brown and will sound hollow when you thump it with your fingers. If the loaf seems to be browning too quickly, turn your oven down to 450°F. Repeat to bake the second loaf.
- COOL: Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes to let the interior crumb set and make it easier to slice. You’ve now made your first kneaded bread!
|Common Problems & FAQs |
Q: Why did my loaf deflate when I scored it and, after baking, come out flat?
A: This is caused by overproofing. Check that your water and dough temperatures are correct and not too hot. Make sure that you don’t let your final proof go too long, especially if it’s a hot day.
Q: Why didn’t my dough hold up when I shaped it into a loaf?
A: This is an underdevelopment issue. Be sure to knead adequately so the dough will keep its structure in the oven. Knead the dough until it is nice and tight and can’t stretch anymore.
Q: Why is my loaf a strange shape?
A: An odd final shape indicates uneven tension during shaping, which pulls the loaf in one direction. It could also mean that the final proof was not adequate. When a loaf is fully proofed, it will spring apart while it bakes in a relaxed way where you’ve scored it.
An underproofed loaf will rip and explode in the oven where you’ve scored it, resulting in odd angles in the final loaf. Give the dough plenty of time to proof, and check to be sure the dough is light and airy before it goes into the oven.
Q: Why does my loaf have a large hole or holes in the crumb?
A: This is a shaping issue. Sometimes an air bubble gets trapped during shaping and expands in the oven. Try to shape tightly so you don’t end up with an air bubble in your loaf.