Herbs de Provence Boule: The Easiest Loaf of Bread You Will Ever Make
by Ann Weaver, May 31, 2016, In Blog
Whether you’ve never made bread or are an experienced baker, you can—and should—make an Herbs de Provence boule. It will take about 10 minutes of your time and will taste at least as delicious as a boule you get at a small bakery. And you can eat it while it’s warm!
When I say this is the easiest loaf of bread you will ever make, I speak from experience, both as a lifelong home baker and a former commercial bread baker. Trust the instructions on the tag, follow them exactly, and you will have a perfect loaf.
Before you begin, note that the dough needs to rise for about 12 hours. If you start the bread in the morning, you can bake it in the evening, and vice versa. Bread is not an exact science, so 12 hours is just a guide. The dough should approximately double in size, which will take less than 12 hours in hot, humid weather and more than 12 hours in cold, dry weather. Be flexible. My mom taught me to put rising dough in the back seat of a car parked in the sun during the summer to decrease rising time!
Here’s how my dough looked after I mixed the flour with water. A cup and a half may not seem like enough water as you are adding it, but it is. It’s perfect.
Because I neglected to read through the instructions before I mixed my
dough, I started the bread at about noon. At about 10:00 p.m., it had nearly doubled in size, but I wanted warm bread with the next day’s dinner rather than as a midnight snack, so I put the dough in the fridge until about 2:00 the next afternoon, which significantly slowed its rise. Again, this is not an exact science. If your dough is approximately doubled in size and has lots of bubbles in it, it’s ready to bake. (Note: If you let the dough rise for too long, it will pop and deflate. In this case, dump it and start again.)
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Here’s what makes this the easiest loaf of bread ever: DO NOT KNEAD IT. Turn it over and gently shape it into a ball. Not a perfect ball; just an approximation of a ball. The more you handle the dough, the denser it will get.
So, my ball looks pretty good, but I’ve done this thousands (tens of thousands?) of times as a commercial baker, so don’t be too hard on yourself. This is a rustic loaf!
Place the ball into a Dutch oven or other ovenproof pan. It doesn’t need to fill the bottom of the pan.
Bake as instructed. Here’s the result, still in the Dutch oven.
As soon as it cooled enough to eat, I made a tuna salad sandwich with homemade pickles with my boule. Good bread elevates simple food.
Later in the evening, I had some dipped in Hojiblanca olive oil with a little sea salt sprinkled on top.
And then it was gone. With my next loaf, I’m planning grilled cheese and roast beef sandwiches!