Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No-Knead Bread

You may have no need for any other bread recipe, once you have tried this one.


The recipe for No-Knead Bread has been making the rounds of the cuisanet and blogosphere since 2006 or so. If you're a big time foodie (BTF) or a lover of loaves, you have probably read many an overjoyed blogger, or even Mark Bittman himself, extoll the virtues of this bread.

I'd read all about it, and still somehow managed to wait almost four years to try it out. Foolish girl.

My friend Kress and I were recently lamenting the lack of truly great bread in Los Angeles. Predictably, we got to fantasizing about opening our own bakery. To avoid completely putting the cart before the horse, we decided we ought to try our own hands at baking bread. Perhaps we could spur each other on.

This is when I remembered the No-Knead Bread. How perfect! Something approachable and not too daunting to begin with.

You do not need any special ingredients – just flour, yeast, salt, and water. The secret ingredient is time. It takes almost 24 hours to bring this bread to fruition. You do not need any fancy equipment, just a 6 quart heavy pot -- ceramic, cast iron or enameled cast iron. I use my Le Creuset Dutch ovens.

This recipe could not be any more simple or straightforward, and your success will be énorme. I feel like an invincible bread baker! A genius!

The genius is actually Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. He realized that the slow (18 hour) rise would produce the same results as kneading, and that baking the very wet dough in a preheated pot would emulate the steam-injected ovens of professionals. Hence the fabulous crust.

His cleverness should be obvious once you try this recipe. You will be shocked by the results. I wanted to climb up on the roof and shout out to the world: "I have made bread!"

I snapped photos with my iPhone and immediately forwarded them to my friends and family. You cannot help but share. Your chest is swollen with pride.

The crust is crisp. It shatters. The crumb is moist with lovely air pockets. This is the bread you remember buying at your favorite bakeries in Europe.

I have made this bread twice. Both times were thrilling.

The first time around, I used an 8 quart or larger dutch oven. The bread was wider and flatter, yet quite excellent.

The second time, I used a 5 1/2 quart dutch oven and 1/4 teaspoon more salt. This bread was taller and rounder, a real boule. I prefer this. The salt content for me was perfect this time. I will consistently use 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.

I am looking forward to trying whole wheat flour.

No-Knead Bread

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting (I used all-purpose.)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (I used rapid-rise.)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt (I used 1 1/2 teaspoons.)
cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky (very). Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18 at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. generously coat a cotten towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal (I used cornmeal the first time and flour the second. I prefer the flour.); put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towl and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.


Monique said...

Eating this bread is both inspiring and addictive.

pierre said...

Loved the bread and the other breads as well. Read all the other entries and found them amazing and fun to read. Your pictures are gorgeous and look so professional. Keep up the good work. It's really good work. PMF