This recipe for a white boule is very simple and requires very little work. It can be prepared and baked in as little as 3½ hours or it can be prepared then left to proof at room temperature for many hours. I’ve allowed it to proof for as much as nine hours at a room temperature around 68° F, then came back home to shape and bake it. This is such a flexible and convenient recipe for making great bread. It starts with an autolyse – the process in which you mix the flour and water together and allow the mixture to sit for 15 or 20 minutes while the gluten activates. This step is so simple and it helps bread rise better because the gluten has a chance to start building a good structure. By the way, I’ve tested whether salt and yeast interfere with this process and I haven’t found that they do to any noticeable degree, salt is said to actually enhance gluten formation. So when I autolyse, I add all the ingredients to the water, blend well and then stir in the flour.
A Little Kneading
After that, only a little kneading is necessary to create dough strength by stretching and aligning the gluten into elastic sheets. This is all the preparation you need to do. You autolyse, knead, and just leave the dough to proof for a couple of hours (or longer if that’s more convenient) until you’re ready to shape it into a loaf. Then you can shape it into a ball of dough and create tension on the top surface as described below. Or you can shape it in a banneton basket. The recipe follows and watch my Video on how to make this easy, delicious bread.
12 oz of water (1½ cups)
.11 oz of yeast (1 tsp)
.30 oz of salt (1½ tsp)
.10 oz of molasses (½ tsp)
16 oz of all purpose flour (3 well packed cups)
1. Add the water, yeast, salt and molasses to a mixing bowl. Stir it well.
2. Stir in the flour until consistently wet. Scrape in all the flour that clings to the bowl.
3. Autolyse by allowing the mixture to sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Knead by spreading the dough to stretch and align the gluten. Using the dome will make this so much easier, plus it has its own bowl scraping edge. Turn the bowl so the spreading is done in all directions. Do this about a dozen times.
5. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a beeswax cover to keep the dough from forming a skin.
6. After at least 1½ hours of proofing you can take the dough and shape it. You can leave it to proof for much longer too, if that’s more convenient. It depends upon your schedule! If you want this bread to proof fast, use warm water in the recipe. If you need to leave the dough for a long time, use cold water.
7. To shape the dough, scrape the dough onto a floured surface, dust your hands with flour and begin to shape it into a ball. You take a section of dough and fold it over toward the center and then working in a circle, take another section and fold it over toward the center, continuing until a ball is formed.
8. To ensure good oven spring, create tension on the top surface of the dough ball. You hold the dough ball in your hands and gently pull the surface dough underneath to stretch and tighten the top. This tension makes the surface dough like an elastic band that can expand with oven heat but still hold a good boule shape.
9. Take a cookie sheet or other shallow baking pan and dust it with a ten inch circle of cornmeal, oatmeal or bran, or place some parchment paper on it. Place the dough ball top side up on the cornmeal, etc. to rise until doubled in volume. This will take about an hour and a half in a 68° – 70°F room.
10. When you sense the dough is close to double the volume, preheat the oven to 450° F.
11. Bake the loaf at 450° F for 25 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375° F and bake another 10 to 15 minutes.
12. Cool a couple of hours before cutting the loaf.
Using a banneton basket to shape the dough
1. You might find it easier to shape the loaf in an 8½ inch banneton basket if you happen to have one. It won’t have as much oven spring without the dough-tightening step but will usually look very polished. If the banneton is new, first season it by soaking it in water for a few minutes and then placing about ¼ cup of flour in it. Turn the bowl sideways and move the flour around in a circle until the banneton is completely floured. Let it dry. Add a coating of flour to the banneton whenever you use it.
2. Coat the banneton. Form the dough into a ball by taking sections of dough and folding them to the center as described above. Then place the ball topside down in the banneton.
3. When the dough overtops the banneton – about an hour and a half or so depending on room temperature – preheat the oven to 450° F.
4. Sprinkle a circle of cornmeal, oatmeal, or bran, or use parchment paper on a baking pan to prevent sticking. Ease the dough onto the cornmeal by turning the basket upside down and gently shaking it up and down until gravity takes over and the loaf falls to the pan.
5. Bake the loaf at 450°F for 25 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375° F and bake another 10 to 15 minutes. Cool a couple of hours before cutting. This recipe can be doubled. You can also substitute whole wheat flour for one or two cups of white flour. If you do substitute some whole wheat flour, add a little more water to the recipe, about 1 tbs. (1 oz) per cup of whole wheat flour. Enjoy!
Watch my video demonstration on How To Make A Simple Boule
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