Breads (Yeast) - Loaves

Rustic Crusty Bread

July 20, 2017 | Recipe by Bake with Paws

Simple soft and crusty bread recipe baked in a Dutch Oven.  Inspired by techniques shared by Marilyn Chow from her Facebook on baking and How to Make Bread by Alex French Guy Cooking.  However, I am using my Focaccia recipe instead.

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Recipe - Rustic Crusty Bread 

Yield:  1 Round bread


400g bread flour (I used Japan High Gluten Flour)
250g water (room temperature or lukewarm water)
2 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 ½ tsp salt
18g olive oil (approx. 1 ½ tbsp.)

Utensils:  Dutch oven (cast iron skillet)

  1. Add all ingredients (first add salt, flour, sugar, yeast, olive oil and lastly 250g water) into the bowl of stand mixer. Using the dough hook on a stand mixer, knead until the dough comes together and achieve window pane stage (when stretch the dough you should be able to see thin membrane). It takes around 10 to 15 minutes. If the dough is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time. Some bread flour absorbs more water.
  2. Let the dough complete the first round of proofing in the same bowl, about 60 minutes until double in size in a warm and dark place.  The best place is in an off oven.
  3. Transfer the dough to a floured table top and fold few times to centre and turn upside down. Shape into a ball and transfer the dough into a big bowl with parchment paper.  Let the dough rise for second proofing about 45 to 60 minutes or until double in size.
  4. 30 minutes before baking, pre-heat the Dutch Oven with lid on at maximum temperature, 250C.
  5. Sprinkle the dough with some flour, then slash the dough with razor blade at your desired pattern.
  6. Transfer the Dutch oven from oven and open the lid carefully.  Gently drop the dough with parchment paper into the Dutch oven.  Close the lid and return back to oven.  Bake for 30 minutes at 230C.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the desired colour.
  7. Let it cool in cooling rack.


Bread crust stays crispy while the bread still warm.  However, it turns soft once it cools down.  To get back the crispy crust, just put the bread in a hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes to reheat or toast it.


For kneading, please regard the timing provided as an indication only. It is only meant as a guide.  Timing may differ depending on the brand of flour and electric mixer used. The protein content may vary from one brand of flour to another.

Some have experienced the dough breaking during the second proofing.  If that happens it is due to over kneading.  Please stop the machine and check your dough during the final cycle of kneading to ensure that you don't over knead. Every machine is different and there is always a chance of over-kneading when using a machine. You may need to adjust this timing and stop as soon as you reach the window pane stage.

The right flour plays a very important role in bread making.  Usually bread flour content around 11.5 - 13.5% protein, while high gluten flour is around 13.5 - 14.5%.  All purpose flour content less protein around 9 - 11%.  To achieve fluffy, soft and light bread, I used Japan High Gluten Flour in most of my bread baking.  Sources from here and here.

The liquid measurement given is also a guide.  It is advisable to always reserve some liquid and not add it all in one go.  This would give you the opportunity to adjust if necessary. If dough is too dry, add the reserve liquid one tablespoon at a time until the right consistency.  This is because each flour absorbs water and hydrates differently. 

Please note that the proofing timing may also vary depending on your climate and environment. The humidity and temperature at your place will influence how dough rises.  
If you are unable to judge by just looking at the dough, you can do the finger poke test:
  1. First Proofing:
    • Lightly flour or oil your finger or knuckle, gently poke in the centre of the dough then remove your finger.  If it bounces back immediately without any indentation then it needs more time.
    • If the indentation stays and it doesn’t bounce back or if the dough collapses, then the it is over proved.  
    • If it bounces back just a little, then the dough is ready to be punched down and shaping.
  2. Second Proofing:
    • Lightly press the side of the proved dough with your finger.  If it bounces back immediately without any indentation, it means the dough is under proved and needs more time before baking.
    • If the indentation stays and it doesn’t bounce back, it means it has been over proved.
    • If the indentation slowly bounces back and leave a small indentation, it is ready to bake. 
    • There will be a final burst of rising once the bread is placed to bake in the oven and it is called oven spring. 
If your bread collapses or gets wrinkled on top after removing from oven, it could be because your dough over proved during the second proofing. Please proof your dough until it just reaches or is slightly below the rim of the pan.

Do also note that the baking temperature and timing provided are what works for my oven and should also be regarded as a guide only. Every oven behaves a little differently, so please adjust accordingly for your oven.