Before baking bread in a Dutch oven. First mix all the ingredients into the flour other than the water, bacon, cheddar & tomatoes. This disperses your additives evenly. Next, warm up some water to 28 - 33 degrees, then add the water and mix well with a wooden spoon or by hand. I prefer just using a wooden spoon with the high hydration as it tends to be a little messier, just make sure to mix well. Cover it up with the lid if the bowl comes with one or place saran wrap on top; now you have the choice of letting it ferment for 12 – 18 hours on the counter or just let it ferment for a couple of hours on the counter, then stick it in the fridge for few days, punching dough down on occasion. It is your time schedule.
Now that it is fermented whether retarding the fermentation over a few days or using a same-day method, gluten has now developed. I now add stretching and folding the to add to the gluten and dough strength. What is Stretching and folding; stretching & folding; this done by taking a corner of the dough stretching it out without tearing the dough then pull it back on top of itself; rotating the dough 90 degrees each time, completing a few rotations; do this 3-4 times in regular intervals, minimum every 15 minutes. On the 2nd last stretch & fold cycle add the extra inclusions, the diced bacon, cheddar, olive oil & cherry tomatoes this will allow the new ingredients to get mixed in nicely. Let sit for 60 minutes, allowing the dough to rise, this is bulk fermentation, it is important to have a 50% rise before moving to next step. Take the dough out of bowl place on a lightly flour dusted counter. We now want to begin to tighten the dough up before final proof; so make four or more folds on the dough to create a ball, flip the ball seam side down; and tighten this dough up into a nice little ball using a dough knife if you have one, hands if not, push in on the bottom and rotating clockwise; once you have tightened it up the best you can, allow the dough to rest for 10-15 minutes; you should always give your dough time to rest of at least 15 min between any forming or dough manipulation. Now flip the dough back over seam side up and place in a proofing bowl or a 6” cake pan coated lightly with olive oil. We now are going to stitch the bread; What is stitching bread; stitch the bread is done by taking a corner and pulling it back to the center allowing the dough to stick to itself, this is the final tightening of the dough. Once the dough is stitched this is a good time to sprinkle with some seeds, sesame and poppy are a good suggestion or whatever you would like to garnish with, sprinkling some fresh Parmesan on top is always nice as well. Now let the dough rise, this is the proofing stage; proving it is still alive; we want the dough to rise in size by roughly 20%, you do not want to let the dough rise too much as it will continue to rise in the refridgerator; keep an eye, as you do not want to over prove, try to catch your dough on the rise, this could take 20 - 60 minutes or more depending on your climate and the flour you used; a good test for this is, touch to touch the dough with your finger if the dough responds back gently its good to go if it responds too quickly it has not finished. Best conditions for proofing are at 28 degrees C if you want you can stick it in the oven with the light on, this can simulate a good environment for proofing. If you leave dough on the counter, it will rise depending on your climate and house temperature, this will dictate its speed of proofing.
Once it has risen place in the refrigerator overnight; make sure the bowl or pan is covered with lid or saran wrap, so it doesn’t dry out. Next day preheat oven to 550 degrees F and place the Dutch oven in for 45 - 60 minutes. Take the bowl or container out of the refrigerator and score with a sharp knife or razor blade; this is much easier now that the dough is cold.
Take Dutch oven out of the oven, place cake pan, or if using a proofing bowl, place dough in Dutch oven, you may want to place on a piece of parchment paper for easier handling. To help keep the crust soft, get a water sprayer and give it a spray or two; just enough to dampen it, then cover and return to the oven; after 5 minutes turn the oven down to 450 degrees and reset timer for 30 minutes; ovens can be different in temperatures so my times should be used as an approximation. After 35 minutes take lid off the Dutch oven, the loaf should be golden brown at this point. To give the bread a nice brown soft crust, brush the top of bread bread thoroughly with olive oil, leave the lid off and return to oven for 5 – 10 minutes; the loaf should be turning darker brown by now; remove loaf out and let it air on a rack for an hour before cutting.