Rise and Shine

Rustic Apple Cider Boule

Photographed by Chris Siefken

While away the most undemanding holiday of the year by baking bread.

By Annemarie Ahearn

Many of us wake up late on New Year’s Day, groggy and with few plans for the day. My tradition is to bake a loaf of bread — nothing too challenging, just a simple loaf that makes the house smell like a bakery. What better way to contemplate one’s resolutions than while meditatively mixing, kneading, and watching as the dough rises. If you’re a bread-baking novice, I challenge you to begin your year with a new skill, a new tradition, and one resolution already under the belt.

Rustic Apple Cider Boule

Makes 1 loaf of bread

2 cups apple cider

2 teaspoons baker’s yeast

5–6 cups flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 Dutch oven

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pour apple cider into a small saucepan and heat until it’s warm to your finger but not hot. (If it’s too hot, it will kill the yeast.) Move cider to a glass or wooden mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast across the surface of the cider and swirl to dissolve. Let sit for 5 minutes, until a raft of yeast forms in the middle. (Look for bubbles. That means the yeast is active.) Gradually add 2 cups of flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture is mud-like. Let this rise for 1 hour in a warm spot (like near a woodstove), covered with a damp cloth. The dough should slightly increase in volume and form lots of bubbles. Sprinkle the salt around the edge of the bowl. Stir to incorporate. Then add 1 more cup of flour and fold into the dough 100 times, which helps to develop the gluten. Continue to add flour (about 1 cup), fully incorporating, until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Rustic Apple Cider Boule

Turn out onto a well-floured surface and sprinkle a final cup of flour around the outside of the dough. Knead gradually. If the dough sticks to your palms, bring in small amounts of flour on your hands as you knead. You may not need all of the flour. Knead until dough is consistent in texture, about five minutes, then form a boule. Sprinkle a clean bowl with a bit more flour to prevent sticking and sit dough to rest with a damp towel over top. Let rise for an additional hour. When doubled in size, shape dough into a boule. Use a little flour on your hands if it’s sticky. Let rise one more time in the bowl for 15–20 minutes.

Place Dutch oven in the oven with the lid on for 15 minutes. Do the next steps as quickly as you can without burning yourself, as it will promote a good rise: Remove Dutch oven from oven, take lid off, and generously flour the inside to prevent sticking. Set the dough into the Dutch oven and cut slits in the top of the dough (in the shape of a tic-tac-toe board) to let rise evenly. Put lid back on and place in oven for 20 minutes. (This is called the “oven spring” and is the only chance for the dough to rise in the oven.) Remove lid and finish baking until the boule is a deep golden brown, 10­–15 minutes. Remove from oven. Place on a cutting board to cool. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting. Consume warm with salted butter.

See more Maine food and recipes!

Annemarie Ahearn

Annemarie Ahearn runs Salt Water Farm cooking school in Lincolnville and is the author of the recently published cookbook Full Moon Suppers at Salt Water Farm.


  • January 10, 2018

    Susan Scatena

    Why a glass or wooden bowl? I don’t have one, only a large aluminum one, would it still work?
    Cast iron Dutch oven? I’m not sure I have one, only a Rachel Ray large pot with a glass lid. Can I just put it on a cookie sheet to bake? thanks

    • January 11, 2018

      Down East Magazine

      Hi Susan — Got some info back from Annemarie: When making bread, she typically suggests a non-reactive bowl such as glass or wood, but it would most definitely work in a stainless steel bowl. And, unfortunately, a pot with a lid will not work. You can do it on a cookie sheet, but you need additional moisture in the oven for it to rise (which is what the Dutch Oven allows for). Alternatively, you can place a pan in the oven on a rack beneath the bread with 4 cups of water and let it get super hot. This will compensate for the lack of moisture. Good luck!

  • January 13, 2018

    Debbie Block

    Is it best to use bread flour for this or all purpose?

    • January 16, 2018

      Down East Magazine

      Hi Debbie — Here’s Annemarie’s reply: You can use either bread flour or AP flour to make bread. Bread flour has more protein in it and therefore, a more robust gluten structure. The final result will be sturdier with a tougher crumb.