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.”
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.”
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).
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 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.
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.