I’ve met a huge milestone in my quest to be a better cook. I’ve baked my own bread from scratch for the first time. A friend of mine had been baking artisan bread last week, and so I was inspired to turn to Mark Bittman, author of How To Cook Everything, to see if he had a recipe for bread. Bingo – of course he did! This is a no-knead, very easy recipe. The only challenge is that it requires planning ahead and timing due to all the rest time involved.
I wouldn’t be an amateur without a few minor hiccups, though. First, I wasn’t sure if I had the right kind of yeast. Second, my dough was so wet after the second 2 hour rest period that I feared there was no way I could form it into a ball as required. It took a lot of flour but I finally got it.
This is a “bake it in a pot” sort of bread recipe, so you have to have a heavy dutch oven or pot with a cover that is ovenproof. Perfect use for my pretty enameled cast iron dutch oven. The bread turned out so good, and so beautiful, that my husband is conjuring up all sorts of variations on the theme: “Can you make little sandwich rolls for this?” I told him yes, but that I will need specific covered mini baking pots for each type and size of bread he’d like me to make. That shopping trip should be fun!
Recipe: No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
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. 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 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.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 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.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.