I have a trusty sourdough boule recipe but I wanted to see what would happen if I took a french bread recipe and made it using the same method as the boule. Plus, I find sourdough starter to be a constant pain in the butt. I made this French Bread boule for Thanksgiving and it came out beautifully!
Domestocrat’s French Bread Boule (makes 2 loaves)
1/2 tbsp. active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1.25 cups warm water
3 cups flour (I used 2 cups King Arthur Sir Lancelot flour and 1 cup King Arthur AP flour)
2 tbsp. butter
Super easy – mix all of the ingredients together in a big bowl (or stand mixer with a dough hook) until it forms a ball, place in a greased bowl, cover with a towel, and let it rise for 3-4 hours.
When the dough has fully risen/doubled in size, knead on a flour covered surface for a few minutes into a ball shape.
Using a dough scraper, divide the dough ball in half and set one half aside. I put one half in a freezer bag and froze it. More on that at the end of this post.
Bread recipes and cookbooks almost always require the baker to use a brotform bowl and special liner. These unitaskers can be very pricey and I refuse to buy one when I can improvise. I dusted a paper towel with flour and placed the dough ball on that inside a glass bowl for a second rise.
The second rise can be done in the same day (leave the bowl in a warm place, covered with a towel for another 3 hours) or overnight. I put the dough in the fridge overnight. It’s a slower rise but works just fine and is better if you don’t have all day to make bread (and who does, really?). The next day I took the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature on the counter for 1 hour.
Finally, it was time to bake!
The baking method I used here is essential to getting the result I got. First, preheat your oven to 450 degrees with a cast iron skillet and baking vessel inside. A word about the baking vessel: you can buy a very expensive cloche bread baker (another pricey unitasker) or you can do what I did and use a dutch oven. Mine is a Le Creuset but you could use anything that can withstand a lot of heat with a cover or lid. Sorry, there are no pictures of the next steps because it happens fast! If you’d like to reference some pictures of the baking process, check out my sourdough boule post.
Once the oven was preheated, I placed my bread dough in the middle of my Le Creuset and scored the top with a sharp knife.
I then poured a cup of water into the hot cast iron pan and closed the oven door quickly. This allows the dough to be fully surrounded by steam. Steam creates an amazing crust and enhances the interior of the bread (you’ll see later).
After three minutes in the steamy stove, I put the lid on the Le Creuset and baked the bread like that for about 15 minutes. This ensures that all of the steam inside the dough will be trapped there while the bread actually bakes.
I then removed the lid and baked the bread for an another 20 minutes until it was a deep golden brown. Here is the final result:
Want to see a quick evolution of this boule?
Super easy bread at home that looks like it came from a bakery. I’d call that a win!
A quick note about the other half of the dough ball that I froze:
I left that dough in the freezer for about a week. When I was ready to use it I put the frozen dough in the fridge for 3 days to thaw. I then prepped it like I did the fresh dough: kneaded it into a ball, dusted a paper towel with flour, lined a big bowl with the paper towel, placed the dough inside, and put the dough back in the fridge overnight. I then made the boule following the exact method noted here and it came out perfectly as well. I’m glad I experimented with the frozen dough, it’s a total make-ahead recipe now!