I'm often asked what my guilty pleasures are and I have to admit that FABULOUS bread and flavored butters are on the top of my list! Chicago is filled with amazing bakeries and patisseries like Toni Patisserie and Café, Pastoral and La Boulangerie. When I'm in the mood to bake my own bread, my Provencal Boule is my go-to recipe. It's a very "user friendly" recipe and requires hardly any kneading. The flavors are earthy, the crust is crunchy and it pairs well with my flavored butters and a glass of wine or champagne for dinner, when only that combination will do after a long day!
Flour - 3 cups, all-purpose
Yeast - 1 packet, active dry yeast (¼ ounce)
Fleur de Sel (French sea salt) - 1 ¾ teaspoons
Honey - 4 tablespoons
Herbs de Provence - 2 tablespoons
Black Pepper - ½ - 1 teaspoon, freshly cracked
Olive Oil - 2 teaspoons
Water - 1½ cups, warm
In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast and honey. Allow the yeast to fully dissolve, about 5 minutes.
Add flour, salt and herbs de Provance. Stir until blended; the dough will be very sticky. Cover the dough with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.
Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, quickly fold the dough onto itself twice then shape the dough into a ball.
Line the same bowl with large pieces of parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Place the dough, seam side down, into the bowl and dust with more flower. Cover the bowl with a clean cotton towel and let rise until the dough is more that doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Next, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a cast iron pot with lid in the preheated over for at lease 30 minutes while the dough is rising. The pot should be at least 2-¾ quart sized.
To prepare the dough after the second rise, remove the cotton towel and drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper.
Carefully remove the pot from the oven and rest on a heat-resistant surface. Lift the ends of the parchment paper from the bowl and place into the hot pot.
Cover the pot with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Then, uncover and continue baking until the loaf is crusty and browned (about 15-20 minutes more). Keep your eye on the bread at this point as it can burn easily.
Finally, remove the pan from the oven and place the loaf on a wire rack to cool completely.