I think most people have a not-so-secret love affair with crusty, fresh, artisan bread. The crusty loaf is responsible for many delicious sandwiches and many diet sabotagings. Unfortunately, I have noticed a very unsettling myth about bread: that it’s hard to make. This is so far from the truth; not only is bread easy to make, it’s easy to cater homemade bread to the texture, flavor, and crustiness that you prefer. Also, the ingredients for bread are inexpensive even if you go for organic, local ingredients.
A great beginner bread is anything done in a dutch oven. The dutch oven method has gone mainstream thanks to the NY Times No-Knead Bread (that’s how I discovered it anyway), but I like to knead my bread. It makes me feel like I’m on Little House on the Prairie. However, the science remains the same; if you make wet dough and put it into a hot, small space, you’ll trap a lot of steam.
Steam is the key ingredient for a good crust! In fact, if you don’t have a dutch oven, you can simply put a pan of water in the bottom of your oven and cook your bread on a regular baking sheet or stone (I personally think the dutch oven still yields a texturally superior crust).
So, after many successful dutch oven bread recipes, I started developing my own utilizing a blend of flours, a little saltiness, and kneading (instead of letting the gluten develop overnight). This time, I wanted more crustiness. Surface area equals crust, right? So I thought if I made four mini loaves, I would have four times the amount of crust!
These came out delicious. We ate ours plain, and really enjoyed them. Then I made them into mini grown up grilled cheeses. I know. So good. Stay tuned for that recipe.
To make this use literally any combination of flours you want. If it has gluten it’s good to go. However, all whole wheat flour without any all-purpose is kind of a dense, tough, buzz-kill. But who am I to stop you?
Note that when you knead the dough you don’t have to do this for very long. This is not going to be an arm workout like old fashioned bread. It will come together very quickly; if you wanted to add raisins, cheese, jalapeños, herbs, garlic cloves, etc, add them in during the kneading stage.
If you want a topping like sea salt or herbs I usually add that when I take the lid off the dutch oven and let it cook on just for the last 10 minutes. Brush with oil or even water for your toppings to stick!
When the breads come out, use something other than your exposed hand to put these on a cooling rack. They are so unbelievably hot at first, and your dutch oven will be hot for a very long time. The breads will start making a cracking sound as they cool. So fun. Waiting 20 minutes to cut in to these is ideal, but I never have the patience.
Enjoy your mini loaves!
Ingredients and Materials:
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- Extra flour for dusting
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2¾ teaspoons dry active yeast (you could probably get away with using one packet of yeast, which is a half teaspoon less)
- 2 cups warm water (roughly 110 degrees F)
- 1 pinch of sugar (maple syrup or honey is good too!)
- Olive oil
- Dutch oven
- Stir together the warm water with a pinch of sugar and the yeast (wait a few minutes for the yeast to proof, it will be puffy and aromatic)
- Combine the salt and flours in a large separate bowl. You will end up with a shaggy, sticky ball of dough
- Brush the dough with olive oil to avoid developing a skin on the dough (optional step)
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a lint free towel and let the dough rise for 3-4 hours or until doubled in size
- Turn your sticky and gluten developed dough out onto a floured work surface and knead your dough until it comes together. Usually only about 15-20 times
- Cut your dough into 4-6 equal parts depending on how large and how many mini breads you want to make
- Stretch each piece of dough into a roll shape using your palms to pull the dough from the top of the roll, and your fingers to pinch the dough underneath. This will create a smooth, round top
- Cover the dough balls with a floured lint free towel and let your dough rest for 20-30 minutes
- While your dough rests, preheat your oven and dutch oven (without the lid) to 500 degrees F or the highest heat your oven will go
- Carefully place the dough loaves into the hot dutch oven and cover with the lid and bake for 25 minutes
- Remove lid and bake for 10 more minutes or until loaves are lovely and browned
- Remove from the oven and dutch oven and let cool
- Eat! They should peel apart with no trouble!