I really don’t mean this to be a food blog, but it seems like whenever I have time to write something, it inevitably ends up being about food.
But it doesn’t matter. Because this bread is REVELATORY.
Yes, I said it. (Or at least I wrote it).
And I made it, then I ate it.
This is what it looked like before I ate it:
I don’t have an after photo. We ate the whole stinking thing up in a few hours.
I’d been avoiding the whole no-knead bread before, mainly because I couldn’t be bothered to buy the “right” kind of yeast. The instant stuff that people use in bread machines, if you must know. Lo and behold, I was cruising around the interwebs and found out that I could use my normal Active Dry stuff.
Recipe-wise, I followed the instructions on the Smitten Kitchen, but instead of using 1/4 tsp of instant yeast, I used 1/3 tsp of active dry. I also used bread flour and not all-purpose, mainly because we’re high and dry up here. Everything else I kept the same. And you should be forewarned, I still found this pretty messy and managed to get flour all over my newly cleaned stove top. But apparently sticky is good for the yeasty-beasties! Also, while it takes a lot of time, it’s not actually time-consuming. That being said, it’s a perfect, lazy-weekend-at-home kind of project.
Here’s the recipe, from smitten kitchen. And probably other places, too.
Yields one 1 1/2 pound loaf
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast/1/3 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. Mix together 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 70F/21C.
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 hands, 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°F. Smitten Kitchen says to put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. I only had a 2.5L casserole on hand and that’s why mine a little oddly shaped. 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.
The Verdict: Fantabulous. Stupendifying. European loaf of goodness in the my Desert Town, USA kitchen. Crunchy crust and airy, bubbly middle. And four very happy boulangerie customers for lunch.
UPDATE: I tried dividing the dough in two so I could have two smaller loaves. It worked beautifully. You’ll just need a second casserole dish, but then the dishes don’t have to be as big as in the original recipe.