Over the past several months (hell, maybe even over the past year or so!) I’ve been falling slowing and hopelessly in love with bread. I tried a couple recipes handed down from my mom’s hippie days, I tried a couple recipes that received good reviews on Epicurious, and I kept an eye out for other bread recipes. And then I read about Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread over at Smitten Kitchen. She raved about it and, with that sort of recommendation, how could I not give it a try? It seemed so easy! There was no starter, no kneading, no fancy ingredients, no special equipment. Just time. Time to let the yeast go to work and turn the simple combination of flour, salt, and water into something so much better than the sum of their parts. I tried it, making some alterations so that it was even simpler than the recipe in Mark Bittman’s NYTimes article, and I was hooked.
Since that first loaf I have made many more. It is best right from the oven, sliced, and dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar! It makes a wonderful accompaniment to a nice dinner served in a basket with some butter to pass around the table. It’s great sliced thinly and piled with cheeses or other savory appetizers as a starter. I’m also quite fond of a cranberry-walnut variation. It is wonderful toasted with jam for breakfast! I’ve toyed with the idea of dropping in a head’s worth of roasted garlic (because, really, who doesn’t love roasted garlic?), and this time I added a few teaspoons of rosemary.
I love this bread because, with very little effort, you can have an excellent, professional-quality loaf of bread! This bread has that crisp crust that crunches in your mouth and that glossy open structure on the inside. How can you not love a crusty, chewy, tasty loaf of freshly baked bread?
(adapted from Jim Lahey’s recipe as posted by Mark Bittman)
makes one loaf
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/3 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 13 oz. water
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and yeast. (If adding other ingredients I do it here. This time I added 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped.) Pour in the water and stir to combine into a shaggy dough. Cover with plastic wrap and walk away. For 18 hours! That’s it! (You could come back in as little as 14, or let it sit for 20 if you felt like it or if your kitchen is cold.)
When the time is up (the dough will be very wet looking, and dotted with bubbles – isn’t yeast cool?!), dust a work surface and your hands with flour, and turn out the dough onto the counter. Gently pull and fold this wet mass over and onto itself about four times (once in each direction). It will transform into something that looks as you would expect a bread dough to look – smooth and elastic and work-able. Leave it on the counter, covered loosely with plastic wrap, for 15 minutes to rest.
While the dough is resting, lightly spray a large bowl with non-stick spray. Form the rested dough into a ball by gently pulling it around and under itself (you did flour your hands again, right?). Place the dough, seam side down, into the prepared bowl. Lightly mist the top with cooking spray, cover, and let rise till it is roughly doubled in size. This should take about 1 1/2 or 2 hours.
At least half an hour before dough is done rising, preheat the oven to 450ºF. Place a 6 to 8 quart heavy covered pot in the oven while it is heating. (I use my oval cast-iron enamel dutch oven. It is a little large, which makes for a flatter loaf, but it is the one I have!) When the dough is ready and the oven is hot, carefully dump the dough from its bowl into the hot pot. (I usually just do this in the oven with the rack pulled out, but it’s a little sketchy and you might want to take it out first.) Shake the pot around a bit to evenly distribute the loaf, cover it, and put it in the oven. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 25 minutes, until loaf is browned and delicious looking and you can’t stand it. Cool on a rack, slice, and eat!