The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Here's a great Boule Recipe with Technique that will Produce a Very Nice Home Loaf

lisah's picture

Here's a great Boule Recipe with Technique that will Produce a Very Nice Home Loaf

To start, I swear by my equipment and cannot bake a good artisan loaf without these.  They are well worth the investment.  1) La Cloche (Can buy through King Arthur Flour) 2) High Gluten Flour (A good source is Honeyvillie Flour - Artisan Flour - they mail order and it is very inexpensive in a 50 pound bag).  3) Dough rising bucket - mine's from King Arthur) 4) a really good starter that has been maintained (I bought mine originally from King Arthur - but I also have a home grown version that works just as well). 4) My water is from my well, so with that being an important variable, I would suggest to buy water if you can to keep out the chlorine. 5) a willow banneton.  Mine is about 8.5 inches across. 6) I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer 7) plastic dough scraper 8) electric scale. (Note:  King Arthur has some fabulous DVD's out now.  I bought all of them and they are terrific).


Bring starter (about 1 cup) to room temperature.  Add 1/2cup flour and 1/2 cup water. Stir and let sit for at least 4 hours and about up to 8.  You can repeat this process to adjust the acidity of the starter to your taste. Return 1 cup of unused starter to the covered crock and place in the refrigerator (feed at least weekly by repeating the above steps and removing 1 cup of the starter before each feeding - leaving you with 1 cup starter to place in the refrigerator to rest)

A good loaf in my view requires I weigh everything, versus using measuring cups.  I truly believe this and after 25 years of baking bread, I don't like to do it any other way.

Place bowl on electric scale and set it to zero.  Add 15oz of artisan high gluten flour (not bagel flour).  Add 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp dry yeast, 6 oz (1 cup) of the starter above.  To this add about 6 oz of cool water.  Set to 1st setting and run until cleanup (dough pulled away from the side of the bowl).  Turn to #2 setting and run for about 10 minutes.  The goal is to create a very supple windowpane when you take a ball of dough and pull it and stretch it.  The pane should be very thin and not break.  With practice, you will come to learn what this should feel like.  This means the gluten in the flour is fully developed and will produce the best loaf possible.

When the dough is sufficiently kneaded as described above remove it from the mixer and knead it a bit by hand and then form it into a ball, sealing the bottom by rubbing it across an unfloured counter.  The dough should be smooth, elastic, not very sticky.  Note, I used no flour once I took the dough out of the bowl.  If you've done this right, you won't need any.

Next rub some olive oil in your plastic rising container.  Put the ball in upside down and then turn it over.  Cover the tub and place in the refrigerator until the next day.  This is so important.  Dough develops flavor through a cool slow rise.  I cannot bake a good boule without this step.  (Note:  If you let the dough remain in the refrigerator for 2-4 days, it will make a fabulous pizza crust).

The next day, take the tub out and allow it to reach room temperature.  Set your oven to 500 degrees.  I keep a large stone in the bottom shelf at all times. Divide the dough in half and shape each into a round ball.  Place one inside a floured banneton (round willow basket without a lining).  I cover mine with a clean new shower cap.  Place the other in your La Cloche and cover it to rise on the counter.  Keep the Banneton in a cool place to rise, as both loaves will be baked in the La Cloche and the first loaf will be ready before the second can go in the oven.

This next step is key.  You want to catch your dough on "the rise" when you score it and then bake it.  This is why so many people complain their loaves fell when they scored them.  They waited too long.  How long should you wait?  This is something you learn with time.  It is before the dough doubles.  Maybe about 40 minutes or so.  It depends on the temperature of your kitchen and how much water is in the dough.  The key here is not to let it rise fully.  You want it to "pop" in the oven.  The heat creates an explosion and if you catch the dough on the rise it makes that explosion huge, versus uneventful (hense a fallen loaf).

I sprinkle my boule with flour and then slash it three times.  The center slash is straight and the two outside slashes at an angle to create a V with the straight slash in the middle.  On the banneton risen loaf, I make a cross.  It blooms so beautifully like this.

For the first loaf, once floured and slashed - place the covered la cloche with your nearly risen loaf on the middle rack of your oven.  Reduce the temperature to 425.  Bake it covered for 35 minutes.  Remove the La Cloche cover and let it continue to bake until sufficiently brown.  Remove from the oven and place the loaf on a rack to cool.

Next, immediately turn the banneton loaf over onto the la cloche.  Slash it in your desired pattern and then cover it.  Note, the la cloche will be very hot.  Cover it and repeat the baking process as above.

Make sure you let your loaves cool fully before slicing.

This recipe makes 2 georgeous loaves of artisan bread that are crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, with some irregular holes and a very nice slightly tangy flavor.

For variation, you can add a few tablespoons of whole wheat flour, or add chopped fresh rosemary or chopped pitted calamata olives, or other addition you enjoy.  You can also brush the top with egg white wash and sprikle with sesame seeds.

 I bake this bread every day, so trust that even though it sounds complicated, it is really a piece of cake.....

Hope this is helpful to you.

Lisa H.


nonnaluna's picture

Wow!  That is fantasic. 

I am looking for a good starter recipe.  I live in the southern part of the U.S. and I find that any starter that I make doesn't do well because of the high humidity.