Last updated on 17-May-2023
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 missing this bread culture dearly. Not that there aren’t good bakeries in the Toronto area, we actually have some amazing ones, but it’s not the same. People in Canada 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 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!
If you don’t have a dutch oven or cast iron pan with lid, don’t give up: try baking it in any oven-safe all-metal pot (no plastic or wood parts), a loaf pan tented with foil, a small covered roasting pan, a round casserole dish with a lid, or a cast-iron skillet, and just watch the bake time more closely – let the smell of baked bread be the first indication and “touch-test” for a firm crust.
This bread is perfect for lazy weekend breakfasts and brunches, or to crown an appetizer platter or cheese board when entertaining. I’m leaving 3 variations of optional ingredients in addition to the base recipe below. The seeds make the bread even more special and can be replaced with a different mix depending on the time of year or family preferences. There is also a delicious option with cheese and onion, and one with a sweet touch using raisins and nuts. Feel free to try these and other combinations and come back to tell me how it went or tag @vivahappyblog if you post pics of your creations on your social media! 🙂
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Easy Rustic Bread (no-knead, slow rise, Dutch oven)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (13.5 oz or 400g) + more for dusting
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 ½ cups water (about 12 oz or 350g) warm = 110 to 115°F or 43 to 46°C
- Seed Bread
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds toasted and unsalted
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds toasted and unsalted
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds toasted
- 1 tbsp flax seeds
- Nuts and Dried Fruit Bread
- ½ cup walnuts (substitute pecans, almonds or hazelnuts) chopped coarsely
- ½ cup raisins substitute dried cranberries, dates or apricots (chopped)
- 1 tsp cinnamon ground, or substitute orange zest
- Cheese and Onion Bread
- 2-3 tsp dried onion flakes or 1 onion, chopped and sautéed in olive oil until soft and caramelized
- ½ cup sharp cheese such as aged cheddar, Portuguese island cheese (queijo da ilha), pecorino or parmesan - cut into tiny cubes or shredded. Use vegan cheese to keep the recipe vegan.
- In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt and yeast until well mixed. If using seeds or other optional ingredients, it's easier to add them at this point as they will get mixed in more evenly. The add-ons can be mixed in AFTER rising, but it is harder to combine with the dough.
- Pour in warm water and stir until combined. The mixture will be wet and very sticky.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside in a warm place (I place it inside the microwave or oven at room temperature) for 8 to 12 hours until the dough rises, bubbles and flattens on top.
- After the rising period, use a spatula or wooden spoon to pull the mixture away from the sides of the bowl (if adding the seeds at this point, sprinkle over the dough and fold over a couple of times to distribute).
- Generously flour a sheet of parchment paper; transfer the dough to floured parchment trying to make a (roughly) round shape. Sprinkle the top with a bit more flour. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and let rest for 25-30 minutes.
- While the dough is resting, preheat oven to 450°F (230°C) with a Dutch oven + lid (cast iron pot) inside. After reaching the desired temperature, the pot should be left in the oven for at least 10 mins.
- After the pre-heating time, carefully remove the hot pot from the oven. Uncover dough, pick up the parchment by the 4 corners and transfer to the pot. Cover pot and return to oven.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes covered, then another 10 to 15 minutes uncovered (a longer baking time makes a thicker crust) until the bread is baked through and golden brown on top. Let it cool down before slicing.
- If you don't have a dutch oven or cast iron pan with a lid, don't give up: try baking it in any oven-safe all-metal pot (no plastic or wood parts), a loaf pan tented loosely with foil, a small covered roasting pan, a round casserole dish with a lid, or a cast-iron skillet, and just watch the bake time more closely - let the smell of baked bread be the first indication and "touch-test" for a firm crust.
- To toast the seeds, add them to a dry skillet over medium heat stirring often until they start to get browned. 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.
- 1 cup of the all-purpose flour can be replaced with 1 cup of 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. The 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 for 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.