Last updated on 19-Jul-2019
I grew up in Brazil having tons of bakeries around and buying freshly baked buns, loaves or baguettes (let’s not even mention the pastries!) regularly. Besides small and large stand-alone bakeries, there are in-house bakeries at grocery stores, and even at some gas stations! Many people there buy fresh bread two times a day, in the morning for breakfast and then later for a snack in the afternoon or an easy meal in the evening.
Fast-forward to living in Canada and dearly missing this bread culture. Not that there aren’t good bakeries in Toronto, we actually have some amazing ones, and I have two (one Portuguese and one Italian) located within close walking distance to our house, but it’s not the same. People here don’t seem to flock to the bakeries at certain times of the day because they know a fresh batch is just coming out of the oven, walking away with bread so hot one can barely hold the corners of the paper bag.
My relationship with bread is more closely related to what I have seen and experienced in Europe. Countries like Portugal and Italy, which have greatly influenced Brazil’s food and culture, and France, with their almost reverent treatment of bread, felt much “closer to home” to me. I love the smell of freshly baked bread and I often crave a crusty artisan loaf I can slice and simply eat with butter, use to accompany a deli platter, or to make sandwiches.
I had a few homemade bread recipes passed down from my mom, but they are more on the sweet/soft side, closer to a brioche, and didn’t help with these cravings. But when I started seeing several recipes for Dutch Oven Bread all over the internet, saw the drool-worthy pictures, and read the raving reviews of how easy it was and how amazing the bread turned out, I just had to try it out! I have made the bread several times and combined/tweaked a couple of recipes to get to my version below, and I can honestly say this is the easiest and tastiest bread I’ve ever made!
This bread is perfect for lazy weekend breakfasts and brunches, or to crown an appetizer platter or cheese board when entertaining. The optional seeds make it heartier, and the add-ons can be changed to a different mix depending on the season or family preferences (e.g. I think raisins and walnuts would be wonderful!).
Easy Dutch Oven Bread (no-knead, slow rise)
1 large loaf
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115°F or 43 to 46°C)
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and unsalted (optional)
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted and unsalted (optional)
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
- 1 Tbsp flax seeds (optional)
- In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt and yeast until well mixed. Add seeds to make a heartier bread, or omit seeds for a plain white loaf.
- Pour in warm water and stir until combined. The mixture will be wet and very sticky.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place (I place inside the microwave or oven at room temperature) for 8 to 18 hours until dough rises, bubbles and flattens on top.
- After the rising period, punch down the dough and pull away from sides of the bowl. Generously flour a sheet of parchment paper; transfer dough to floured parchment trying to make a (roughly) round shape. Sprinkle top with a bit more flour. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and let rest 25-30 minutes.
- While the dough is resting, preheat oven to 450°F (230°C) with Dutch oven (cast iron pot) and lid inside. After reaching the desired temperature, the pot should be left in the oven for at least 10 mins.
- Carefully remove hot pot from oven. Uncover dough, pick up the parchment by the 4 corners and transfer the dough to the pot, with parchment paper beneath. Cover pot and return to oven.
- Bake bread 40-45 minutes covered (the longer baking time makes a thicker crust), then another 10 to 15 minutes uncovered until dough is baked through and golden brown on top. Cool slightly before slicing.
- To toast the seeds, I add them to a dry skillet over medium heat stirring often until they start to get browned. I add the pumpkin seeds first and toast until they start to “pop”, then add the sunflower seeds toasting/stirring for another minute, and add the sesame seeds last, as they toast very quickly. The flax seeds don’t need to be toasted.
- The seeds can be replaced with chopped nuts (e.g. walnuts, hazelnuts, etc) and/or dried fruits (e.g. raisins, cranberries, chopped apricots, dates, etc.).
- 1 cup of the all-purpose flour can be replaced with 1 cup whole wheat flour for a denser loaf.
- I’ve used a 3.5 Qt and a 5 Qt Dutch oven to bake the bread and both worked. Dough may spread out more in the larger pot.
- This slow-rise bread has a slight sourdough taste, which becomes more pronounced the longer it is left in the rising stage.
- After cooling, left-over bread can be pre-sliced and stored in the fridge or freezer in a closed container/zipper bag, and then warmed up in the toaster before serving.
- This dough doesn’t include sugar and the yeast feeds on the carbohydrates in the flour itself to ferment/rise, so the resulting bread is healthier and easier to digest.