The first boule


The avid admirer has become the artist! As an outspoken fan of bread and all things full of carbohydrates, I have taken my first attempt at the boule: I baked my first loaf of bread yesterday! It was a small, no-knead crusty white bread boule with many thanks to the people of King Arthur Flour.

According to Peter Reinhart of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, the first stage (out of twelve) to bread baking is establishing mise en place. This concept translates to “everything in its place” in French and captures everything under the organization umbrella: Have you read — and more so, visualized — the recipe? Do you have all of your ingredients at hand? Is your baking area clean, clear and organized?

I have so often rushed into a project, bright-eyed and unprepared. The exhibits are so many: My first attempt a dulce de leche cake in 8th grade led to a soggy messy of dairy tribbling down my pants when I brought it to school, and my first mature attempt at a ceramic creation at one of those places where you get to paint your own plates and vases led to the tackiest rendition of polka dots on dinnerware man has ever seen. And most recently, I injured my knee as a too eager half marathon runner. But for this bread baking mission, I honed in on this idea of mise en place and did my research and did complete all twelve stages as Reinhart suggested (resisting my impatience every step along the way).

Both Reinhart and the numerous bakers of King Arthur Flour suggested the use of instant yeast as opposed to active dry yeast. I think that there is the same amount of effort between using active dry yeast versus instant yeast: While active dry yeast is much more commonly found in grocery stores, it requires an extra 10 minutes of proofing in a warm bowl of water to re-awaken the yeast before you mix it into your dough. On the other hand, instant yeast requires a bit more of a commercial hunt, but is ready to go without any proofing or waiting when you’re ready to prepare your bread dough. I went with some SAF Instant Yeast. This label was straightforward, but don’t be fooled by the various commercialized names for yeast: Yeast advertised as “bread machine” yeast is the same as instant yeast.

My bread took two days to create. On the first evening, I mixed the four of the ingredients together (unbleached bread flour, yeast, salt and water — how much simpler does it get?) and allowed the dough to rest at room temperature for slightly over two hours. By the end of this initial room temperature fermentation, the dough almost doubled in size! Good work, instant yeast! Then, I covered the dough bulk with some saran wrap and left it in the refrigerator over night to cool. The dough shrunk a bit, but still maintained the majority of its bulk.

On the second day, I dusted some flour on the top of the dough and pulled out what would eventually be the first boule!

The unbaked first boule!

To form a boule, a ball-shaped loaf of bread, I created surface tension on the top of the piece of dough by stretching and pulling opposite ends of the dough to a seal on the bottom of the ball. I didn’t test this out too much as I was wary of degassing the dough. Then I left the boule to proof for a final 45 minutes before baking.

A beautiful, yeasty matrix of carbohydrates!
A beautiful, yeasty matrix of carbohydrates!

Mise en place.
My mise en place.

In the final moments before this boule saw in the inside of the oven, I put a small metal tray on a rack about an inch below my bread rack. I cut four half-inch deep slits into my boule, slid it into the oven and carefully added some hot water to the metal tray in the lower rack. Steam ensued! I closed the oven door and waited 25 minutes.

Unbaked boule with slits.

And voila! The first boule!

The first boule!

Take a look at its insides!

The boule was a tad tangy, a bit like a mild sourdough. The crust was thick and neither crumbly nor rubbery. The insides, warm and the perfect base for some homemade apricot jam. Delicious. Even Gizmo, the dog I’ve been dog-sitting for the past two weeks, eyed me as I ate a slice. You can tell he was just waiting to dart after any stray, fallen crumbs. All in all, I’m very happy with my first attempt at bread baking.


With this blog post, I do not attempt to re-create the wheel. To bake your own simple, no-knead boule, heed to the trustworthy guidance of the fine people at King Arthur Flour and their recipe here. And now off to bake the second, third and fourth boules (or boule? Whatever the plural is!)!

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