The Miracle Boule: The Best Homemade Bread Ever

 The sparse and lonely crumbs left on the cutting board would have to agree with my husband who says, “this is the best bread you’ve ever made”. I agree with him too. They devoured it. It took me twenty-four hours of waiting and it was gone within an hour once it was ready. I can’t blame them though.  This is the best homemade bread I’ve ever made.  I knew it was special when I could hear it cooling on the rack, crackling away.

 I started making bread about three years ago, just on a whim.  I thought I’d give it a try after reading a “no-knead” bread recipe.  It sounded appealing, since the only real “work” is waiting to eat delicious bread. Granted, I don’t enjoy waiting for bread, but this bread is definitely worth the wait.

 I’ve tried several different recipes, all of which were very similar. For whatever reason, this one is flat out amazing and miles above the rest.  I’m making it again now (as it sits on the counter for tomorrow).

They can’t get their fill fast enough!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups/375 g all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • Cornmeal, wheat bran or extra flour, as needed

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Stir in 1 1/2 cups/375 ml water.  After stirring it should be wet, shaggy and sticky.  Cover the bowl with a clean, dry kitchen towel or a loose fitting lid (that allows for air to flow).  Set it aside to rest on the kitchen counter top for 24 hours, no less than 12 hours. It’s ready for the next step when the surface is dotted with bubbles.  Flour a work surface and dump the dough out onto it. Sprinkle over a little more flour and fold it once or twice. Cover again with the towel and let rest 15 minutes.
  2. Using only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers, shape the dough into a ball. Coat a cotton towel with cornmeal, wheat bran or flour and lay the dough on it, seam-side down. Dust with more cornmeal, wheat bran or flour. (You need quite a lot because you want to be sure the dough doesn’t stick to the towel). Cover and let rise for about 2 hours. When ready, the dough will be more than double in size.
  3. A half an hour before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F/230 degrees C. Put a 2-liter cast-iron pot or Dutch oven inside to heat.
  4. When the dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven and turn the dough into it, seam-side up. (It will look messy, but this is OK.) Shake the pot to settle the bread evenly. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is nicely browned, another 15 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

 

Source: Laura Calder: French Food at Home.  Episode, “The Bread Show”

 

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45 thoughts on “The Miracle Boule: The Best Homemade Bread Ever

    • No, actually and thank you for asking. This recipe calls for exactly one quarter teaspoon of instant (dry) yeast.

      Why: Because the bread rises over a relatively long span of time (compared to other bread baking practices which might only require an hour due to the increased amounts of yeast and sugar) the yeast has a massive amount of time to multiply and create the air bubbles (rising) required for a good hard-crusted rustic loaf with a light and fluffy chewy center similar to what one might buy in a bakery as opposed to the bread aisle.

      Feel free to give it a try and let us know how it turns out for you.

  1. Hi Kate, just wondering if there’s a typo in ingredients. It says 375g flour and 375ml water. I followed this but ended up adding lots more flour as it was way too wet. The 375g flour is 3 cups in the recipe, and 375ml water 1 1/2 cups. I added extra 100g flour and it turned out lovely.

    • Flour and water can vary depending on the conditions of a kitchen based on whether it’s very humid or very dry you may need more of one or the other. While that isn’t a typo, I am happy to hear you were able to vary it and come out successful. The dough is a very wet dough, especially when first combined. I usually add a bit of flour when shaping the dough, but of course, beforehand works just as well. But, again your experience could have been different based on the conditions of the kitchen itself and the moisture in the air at the time of mixing/baking.

      Thanks so much for stopping in!

  2. I just tasted the results of this recipe and cannot believe it came from my own fair hands. Amazing results, delicious, wonderful. Will be a staple from now on. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  3. This bread looks so delicious and ingredients are incredibly simple. I used to wait long hours to make pizza dough, so waiting time won’t bother me too much. Just one question, in step one, you said “cover the bowl with a clean, dry kitchen towel”. I alway cover dough with wet towel in case the dough dries out. Should I use dry towel in this recipe?
    The highest temperature of my oven only goes to 220C, hope the result will be ok.

    • Hi Maggie,

      It is because this recipe calls for so much water at the start that the dough should not dry out. I have never used a moist towel to cover the dough and have never had any issue with the dough being too dry. Of course, weather varies and therefore flour retains more moisture on certain days in certain climates. I would go with whatever you are comfortable with using, but from my experience, this particular dough is quite wet enough to not need any help in the towel coverage department.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • I just baked the bread last weekend and it was very delicious. I used a very big pan when baking it, so the bread turned out quite flat. It doesn’t affect the flavor, but next time I’ll try with smaller pan. Maybe I will try to make it with bread flour to see how’s the result going.
        I used the bread to make a smoke salmon and cream cheese sandwich, it was so good! :)

  4. Looks wonderful and is just what I have been looking for….I would like to make this for a dinner I’m having later this week, but won’t have time in the 2 days just preceding the dinner to make this. How does it store and reheat? If I make 2 days ahead will it still taste fresh if warmed up? Thanks!

    • If you make the dough and allow it to rise in the refrigerator for those two-three days, it will be ready for baking on the day of your dinner. Bring the dough to room temperature, form into a ball and bake from there.

      The refrigeration slows down the rise and therefore can lengthen the amount of time you leave the dough to rise. That would be your best bet for making this in advance since bread is always best when fresh from the oven. If you prefer to make it completely before the dinner, I’d suggest wrapping it very well and freezing it the day you bake; then heat in the hot oven before you plan to serve it, wrapped well in aluminum foil.

  5. I was wondering about adding dried cranberries and a handful of nuts. Will it affect the rise? I have been making this recipe for years and love it — have added a little garlic powder and grated cheese with good results.

  6. Has anyone tried making this into a ‘loaf shape’ at all…if so what sort of container would you suggest?
    I tried a standard loaf tin but that was a disaster..thinking about it, maybe I will try a loaf tin inside the cast iron pot..but if anyone has already done so, I would love to know the result

    • Hi Alexis, This recipe is not meant for a loaf pan, to be honest; so I really wouldn’t bother unless you’re willing to add sugar and oil. Loaf pan recipes contain sugar and oil (or some other variation thereof) to help with quick rise and tender crumb. This is more of a rustic, hard crusted bread with big air pockets inside. The reason this recipe is made in a covered container is because it traps the steam released as the bread bakes, allowing the outer skin or crust to expand as it bakes. If this recipe is made in an uncovered container, the crust will dry out and form too quickly and inhibit the remaining rise on the inside of the bread resulting in something less desirable. If you’re looking for a loaf pan recipe for bread, I can recommend a couple of other recipes for you.

  7. I’m not a baker but this looks so easy I’ve got to try it. I have a rather large 5qrt stock pot could i double the recipe and just make a larger loaf? What would be the new backing time?

  8. Hi, I have one rising on my counter top now waiting to be baked in two hrs time. But I have a problem. The dough is too sticky for me to handle. I couldn’t really fold it with hands, albeit shaping it into a ball. I used a large scrap to “fold” instead. However the dough keeps ” spreading”. I couldn’t really shape it into a ball. What is wrong with my dough? Thanks.

    • I’ve made this bread in a lot of different cooking vessels and they’ve all been satisfactory, including a 4 quart steel pot with a tight fitting lid. As long as the dough fits into the vessel and isn’t much larger than 4 or 5 quarts (I haven’t tried it with anything larger than that, so I’m not sure of the results) and leaves enough room for it to rise while baking, whatever you have is fine. I wouldn’t go and buy any special equipment if you have a different size already.

  9. I’ve made this several times since I saw this. I only have one question. When I dump the dough into my preheated cast iron dutch oven it seems to deflate a bit. Do you think it would still work if I just let the dough rise in the dutch oven then bake it in a pre heated oven? I know I’d have to skip the “pre heating” of the dutch oven part.
    The bread is delish! And I will continue to make it. Just wonder if I could get a better rise.

    • I saw your comment and tried the recipe without preheating so I could report back with some personal experience. The results weren’t drastic and I can’t discern which was better, as far as rise, honestly, though that could have just been the dutch oven that I used (plus the humidity level in the kitchen that day).

      I personally prefer the preheated method because it gives (in my opinion) the best crust. But as far as rise, I didn’t really have a preference.

      However, surely all kitchens, cooks and dutch ovens are different on various days. If you want to try it, it certainly wasn’t a total loss (came out just fine!). The bread came out tasting delicious as always, preheated or not.

      • I personally do it by placing the dough in a bowl lined with parchment paper. When it comes time to move it to the preheated cast iron dutch oven I gently lift it out of the bowl by the edges of the parchment paper. That’s the only way I know to get it to not deflate and still keep that crust…

  10. Looks amazing! do you think this would work with sprouted wheat flour? any tips on how to adjust recipe for a sprouted whole wheat flour?

    thanks!
    carmelisa

    • I suppose it would just be a matter of replacing the flour completely and seeing if that works out or not. They say it’s a 1 to 1 swap, though I know that occasionally some recipes end up quite doughy in the middle. If that happens, maybe smaller loaves might work better. I haven’t made it with Sprouted wheat flour, personally, but I’d be curious to hear how it turns out.

  11. This is going to sound silly, but what exactly is a dutch oven that you can put into the oven? Could you show a pic of exactly what you mean? I definitely want to try this, it looks & sounds fabulous.

  12. I love the airy texture of the crumb and I’m so impressed with the ultra-short ingredient list! I love baking bread, but I’ve never achieved results this beautiful… I’m featuring this post in today’s Food Fetish Friday (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and I love the inspiration I get from your food…

  13. OMG… you totally convinced me to try this recipe – and I’m not known as a baker too. I can’t wait to try this. I am very picky about bread (even though I don’t bake bread myself) and this bread has nice hole and looks just fantastic. If I can make this bread, just like how you do it… I think I’ll be surprised myself. Thank you for the recipe! I will try my best!

    • I’ve made some sourdough breads. They were pretty good. I have yet to find an amazing recipe that balances quality and ease, though. Thanks for the reminder to remain diligent in my search efforts.

  14. I make the SAME bread! Found it in the NY Times a while back. So far, its the only loaf of bread I’ll make. It just turns out SO darn good! I made it for a true Italian Chef once, and he was absolutely appalled that I made that bread. He said it tasted as good as any bread he would make or find in Italy.

  15. An amazing loaf! I have a similar recipe that includes beer as part of the liquid ingredients, imparting a taste similar to a sourdough. The bread dough is cradled in parchment for the second rise. Then the parchement is used to lift the dough into the hot Dutch oven. I will be trying your recipe soon, as your loaf has exceptional texture. All I need now is a bit of balsamic vinegar and oil oil for dipping!

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