Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Need for No-Knead

One of my favorite things, especially to go with a hearty stew or soup, is a nice piece of crusty bread. You know the kind I'm talking about - crunchy on the outside and airy, soft on the inside. The kind of rustic bread just begging for you to tear off a piece and devour.

Photo by Renato Ghio

I finally decided to take the plunge and dip my toes into the bread making world. I figured it would be best to start with something relatively simple. I have a habit of collecting recipes and my obsession paid of, as I remembered a recipe from years ago for no-knead dutch oven bread. Perfect.

The no-knead method is so easy. It may take time, but there's not a lot of hands-on time. I like that. It's all about the science of yeast. Science is cool and delicious.

This recipe by Roger Doiron in Mother Earth News, adapted from one in the New York Times, yielded an amazingly perfect loaf of artisan bread on the first try. I am indeed hooked on making my own bread.

No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread
Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf
Roger Doiron, Mother Earth News

Ingredients

  • 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. In a large bowl dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. The dough will be sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let it rest overnight for 8 to 12 hours at warm room temperature.
  2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
  3. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. Generously coat a clean dish towel with flour or cornmeal. Put the seam side of the dough down on the towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a 6- to 8-quart dutch oven pot with lid on in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and lift off the lid. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. The dough will lose its shape a bit in the process. Give the pan a firm shake or two to help distribute the dough evenly, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  5. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned.
  6. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing. As it cools the bread will make cracking sounds.

My next adventure is to try recipes from Bread in 5. I may have been slow to get to the homemade bread party, but I can totally do this ... and so can you.

Do you make your own bread?
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