I don’t really bake bread from scratch. My passion for food, cooking, and entertaining a crowd stops quickly short of getting flour-clogged fingernails from 10 minutes of the most boring process ever – kneading. It’s the same thing over and over. And over. And it never comes out right. Ever.
I don’t own a bread machine for the same reason I don’t own a frosty beverage maker. While I do love me some fresh bread and margaritas (separately, of course), specialty appliances (especially those that large) are culinary blasphemy in our house. With counter space at a premium, anything in, mounted under, or stored beneath our counters must be worthy of the space.
Then I found this recipe for no-knead bread. The recipe for bread. Sure, all pictures of bread look fantastic. Perfectly golden loaves with a hint of cornmeal and flour, picturesquely fractured to reveal a slightly toasted layer beneath. I’ve seen bread like this before – on the cover of so-called bread bibles, food mags, and such. But never has a loaf like that ever emerged from my oven. Not until today.
I took the homemade loaves out of the oven and let them rest. It creaked and popped for several minutes as the hot center released steam that caused the fractures on the top of the loaf to spread a little more. Fantastic. Gorgeous. Cutting into the loaf revealed a gorgeous display of fermentation holes… the perfect look for crusty bread.
The recipe itself is simple, but if you want fresh bread for dinner tonight, you should have read this yesterday. It requires 12-18 (18 is recommended) hours of rising and then another 1-2 hours after that. I didn’t have a large enough roaster or dutch oven to cook the bread in, so I used the enameled liner from my large crockpot – it worked fabulously.
No Knead Bread
The recipe itself is simple, but if you want fresh bread for dinner tonight, you should have read this yesterday.
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
- In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
- 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.
- 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 cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; 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.
- At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 500 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; 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.
Yields: 1 loaf
Estimated time: 20 hours 30 minutes