Ruhlman’s Basic Bread (Dutch Oven Method)

by arnold on May 10, 2009

I’ve avoided working with dough because I’ve had bad luck with it the past, but I think that’s going to change after my success making this basic bread recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s new book “Ratio.”

Cross section

Ruhlman’s Basic Bread Dough recipe is a lean dough, which means there’s no fat it in it, and has a ratio of 5 parts flour to 3 parts water. It can be shaped into almost any type of bread, from a basic boule to a baguette to ciabatta. Once you get the hang of making the basic bread, you can use it as a foundation for tons of other recipes, which Ruhlman also discusses in the book.

Since I’m a bread baking noob, I stuck with the basics, but one variation I wanted to try was Ruhlman’s Dutch oven method. Professional deck ovens use a system that injects steam into the oven to help develop a bread’s crispy crust. A covered Dutch oven replicates this effect by trapping the water vapor that’s released as the bread bakes. After mixing together the dough and letting it rise, I kneaded again to expel gas, shaped it into a boule and let it proof directly in a Dutch oven for an hour. Ruhlman prefers proofing directly in the Dutch oven because “you don’t disturb the structure you’ve created in the final rise and it results in bread with a light, airy crumb.”

Just before scoring and baking

Ruhlman recommends a 5.5-7.5 quart enamel cast iron Dutch oven in the book, but our trusty non-enameled Lodge Dutch oven worked great. Per the book, I left the lid on for the first 30 minutes and then removed it for the final 10 minutes it took to get to temperature (I pulled it when the internal temp was 204F).

Fresh out of the oven...

I probably should have let the bread sit for a while before cutting into it, but I just couldn’t wait. The crust was really crispy and the bread was steaming hot…and it was so good. Here’s a closeup of the crumb:

The Crumb

The next morning, I cut a few more pieces of bread and toasted them for breakfast. I topped them with Chez Pim’s Royal Mandarin and Ceylon Cinnamon marmalade…a great way to start the day.

Toasted with Pim's Royal Mandarin Ceylon Cinnamon marmalade

I must admit that I really didn’t know how to shape a proper boule until after I made this, but I will next time. All things considered, I’m still ecstatic about how my bread turned out and am eager to make more.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jude May 11, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Looks great, and I would have preferred to use a non-enamled dutch myself. Seems so much more old school that way.

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Jen May 11, 2009 at 11:49 pm

do i need to buy the book or will you post the recipe? the bread looks beautiful!

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Arnold May 12, 2009 at 12:11 am

@Jude: Thanks…especially from someone with your baking prowess. :) Also, I love our non-enameled dutch oven and have held off buying an enameled one for awhile because I don’t really see the need. :)

@Jen: I don’t want to step on Ruhlman’s work, but I also think everyone should own this book. It’s so good that after reading the first chapter on bread dough, I immediately went out and made bread. I haven’t read any of the other chapters yet, but I might end up making something from every chapter before I actually finish it. :)

However, the ratios are printed on the cover and for basic bread it’s 5 parts flour to 3 parts water…plus a little yeast and salt.

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Eagranie May 14, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I’m not the biggest fan of Ruhlman (sssh, don’t tell anyone) but Ratio is definitely on the top of my list of books to buy.

Someone explained the boule-making process to me as a “poker chip sweep”. I’ll have to demonstrate in Seattle this weekend.

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Dutch Oven Cookout July 2, 2009 at 4:44 am

great post…thanks for sharing ideas, i love to use also dutch oven…we will come back often.

Thanks..

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Sheldon Botoshansky November 5, 2009 at 3:16 am

Here is some heresy for you dutch oven, enameled or cast iron adherents, but, I used simple Corning Ware ceramic for Bittman’s no knead bread and it came out fine, according to spec.
I now use assorted sizes for baking conventional rolls and loaves and the results are satisfying as well.
They weigh less, clean up beautifully and distribute heat uniformly.
Try it out… you may like it too.

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