Raise your hand if you love Panera Bread! Me too, me too. That's why today I'm going to teach you how to make some! *You're welcome.
This amazing rosemary artisan bread has become a staple in our home. If someone would have told me years ago how easy it is to make bread, I would have started long time ago. I mean, really, bread is not that hard. And still, there's something SO intimidating about it, isn't there? Like it's a secret club with exclusive members or something. At least that's how I felt. I would drool as I peered through the glass at fancy bread companies, marveling at the perfect shapes, crusty edges, and mouthwatering smells wafting from the bakery.
A few years back I acquired my first Le Creuset dutch oven. It is a thing of glory. The kind of thing I'll have to pass down to my kids someday. I tease with Ben that heaven forbid I should ever drop it on my kitchen floor, I will most certainly crack the ceramic tiles before I make so much as a chip in my pot of glory. It would probably outlast armageddon. Who knows. I digress.
Anyway, Le Creuset dutch ovens are distinct in their ability to make glorious artisan bread 'without' the use of a steam-injection oven. Here's how it works: The water from the bread dough gets trapped inside the dutch oven as it cooks causing, you guessed it, steam! The steam in the dutch oven and the high heat combined cause a wonderfully thick crust to emerge on the bread. Today I'm going to share an easy recipe that you can adapt to your preferences. Just add whatever you want! Nuts, seeds, grains, salt, etc... This is a basic concept, run with the possibilities!
First off, it really helps to have a stand mixer. If you don't have one, you'll have to knead by hand.
Begin by adding all the ingredients into your mixer: 4 cups flour, 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon yeast, salt (to taste), 2 tablespoons flax, & at least 1 tablespoon of rosemary.
Tip for keeping ground flax fresh- freeze it! It lasts a long time in the freezer.
Mix all ingredients in your stand mixer for about 5-10 minutes or until the dough is smooth & somewhat elastic. You may need to remove it from the hook and reposition it occasionally for better mixing.
Once you're done mixing, remove dough from the hook and shape into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it's doubled in size, 2-4 hours. Just keep an eye on it.
Here's what the dough should resemble when it's fully risen:
Transfer the dough to a floured cutting board and knead it all over to release the gas. Do this for a few minutes.
Cover the dough with a clean towel to allow the gluten to relax- about 10 minutes.
Shape the dough into a very tight ball by kneading it between your palms, then place it in a well oiled dutch oven. Place the lid on the dutch oven and let the dough rise again- 30 minutes to an hour.
Notice how the dough has risen a little more (below). Now take some olive oil or an egg bath and brush it all over the dough ball.
Take a 'very' sharp knife and make an X mark on the dough. This allows for rising as the bread bakes. Lastly, sprinkle the dough with kosher or sea salt. Place the lid back on the dutch oven and place it in a preheated oven (450 degrees). **Make SURE that the handle on your dutch oven is safe for temperatures up to 450. I had to buy a special handle for this. If you're not sure, check with the manufacturer.
After a half an hour, remove the dutch oven lid and bring the oven temperature down to 350. Let the bread bake an additional 10-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees.
Remove the bread from the pot right away and transfer it to a baking rack to cool.
Once the bread is completely cooled, cut it into sections with a very sharp serrated knife. You're done!!
I hope you enjoy this bread as much as we do! Cheers.