And it was easy. A little too easy. This post all began when I became peripherally aware that the food blogging world was astir with the triumph of "No Knead Bread." I scoffed at this idea - no knead bread - a reader suggested I try it after my New Year's Resolutions, and then a friend (a non food-blogging friend, and one whose food authority I trust implicitly) asked me recently if I had thought of making this miraculous bread about which Mark Bittman had written. Wait, this stemmed from Bittman? Hmm. You see, I had originally thought this whole "No Knead" thing came from the back of Family Circle or some other busy mom-type publication (not that there is anything wrong with those). But this was from a certified source. A food writer for the Times, for the love of crumb cake. I made a mental note to look up the article.
Then I was riding to work the other day, listening to my favorite podcast - KCRW's Good Food (click through to listen, and scroll down to read some advice on baking the bread), and lo and behold, here was Mark Bittman, praising the No Knead Dough and discussing his source - Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. Double Hmm. I'm going to have to give this a try. (Read Bittman's article here - you'll have to register for free - be sure to watch the video of him making the bread with Lahey, it helps).
I would try this bread and document it for you dear readers. Fortunately, most of my readers are non food blog reading Columbusites, so you don't know I'm writing about something which has been written about over and over. For those of you who are avid food blog readers and have already read everyone else's experiences, well, now you can point and laugh at me for being a Jane-come-lately. I can take it. But I have to spread this gospel of bread. Can I get a witness?
I think I might have spoken about my lack of patience on previous occasions. As much as I love baking, I also love intuitive, interactive cooking - the results are delightfully nearly instant. Bread, however, is an entirely different story. But, I have a few days off this week, and, since I told myself I'd clean closets, I thought I might as well bake a little bread in the meantime (it's not called procrastinating, it's called building urgency). The trick with this bread is time. It doesn't take a lot of active time, but there is a lot of waiting. So, start about 28 hours before you are going to serve the bread and have something else to do to occupy yourself in the meantime. The recommended initial rise time is 14-19 hours, but, as my kitchen is rarely over 65 degrees in the winter, I let it go a full 24, folded it over, rested for 15 minutes, and then the second rise was about 3 more hours. And I immediately started a new batch of whole wheat with malt syrup. I'll keep you posted on that one tomorrow.
This bread turned out beautifully. It might be one of the most satisfying things I've made. The crust is crackly-crisp and lightly browned - so crisp is this crust, in fact, it's no match for my sad bread knife - the crumb is fully of shiny tunnels indicating a long, satisfying rise with lots of yeast growth and death, it is savory and yeasty - I highly recommend that everyone try it.
Because Jim Lahey tells Bittman in the article to "get the word out, let everyone know," about this recipe, I am going to post the recipe in the extended post, along with lots of photographic documentation of the rising process. Enjoy!
3 cups flour (I used bread flour because I had it on hand, so I can only speak to those results)
1/4 tsp yeast (yes, you read correctly, 1/4 tsp)
1 1/4 tsp salt (yep, in with the yeast)
1 5/8 cups water - if your liquid measure doesn't measure in eights, 5/8 is about halfway between 1/2 and 3/4 on a liquid measuring cup. I used slightly warm water
Combine ingredients in a large bowl - it's easiest to use your hands. The dough will be very wet and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 14- 24 hours. Sprinkle a board with flour and turn the dough out, fold in half and in half again, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rest 15 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, folding all the seams to the center and place, seam side down, on a floured (or cornmeal, which I used) tea towel or plastic wrap. Dust with more flour or cornmeal and cover with the towel. Allow to rise another 2-4 hours until doubled in size.
About 20 minutes before the end of your second rise, place a 4-8 quart, ovenproof pot (I used a 7 quart cast iron Dutch oven from Lodge, they used cast iron and enameled cast iron such as Le Crueset) on a half baking sheet and put it in the oven. Preheat the oven - with the pot inside - to 450 degrees. When the oven is hot, remove the lid from the pot and carefully plop (if there is such a thing) the dough, seam side up now, into the pot. Replace the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake an additional 20-25 minutes or until crust is deliciously browned and the bread sounds hollow when thumped. Remove from oven, pry the bread out with a spatula (it won't stick) and place it on a rack to cool completely before cutting in. Then e-mail to let me know how it went.