Saturday, May 30, 2009

No Knead Bread

At this point, I am sure almost everyone has heard of the no knead bread phenomena. After I finally got around to purchasing a dutch oven a few years ago, this recipe was one of the first I tried. The ingredients couldn't be more basic -- just flour, salt, instant yeast, and water. The hardest part of the recipe is the timing as it requires a lot of resting time to allow the yeast to do its work. Usually, an overnight rest is the way to go so starting the recipe the day before you intend to bake is a good technique. Once it has risen, the dough has a wonderful yeast-y smell. The dutch oven is invaluable because it can take and evenly distribute very high heat, as called for in this recipe.

When the bread finally comes out of the oven, it is beautifully golden and crusty. You have to let it rest for a few minutes, during which you will hear the bread crackle and settle. The final
product has a beautiful crust that isn't too hard and a springy interior with plenty of air pockets. This bread is probably as good, if not better, than most boules you may get at a bakery and you have the satisfaction of having baked it yourself! While this bread with butter is plenty good, I often make open faced sandwiches with it. The picture on the left is of an open faced sandwich consisting of goat cheese and grilled zuchinni and red onion, although the variations are endless. These make a great, light weekday dinner.

The recipe below is from Steamy Kitchen, which is slightly modified from the original recipe Mark Bittman got from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery. I have also tried Bittman's speedier version of the recipe and find it to be almost as good.

No Knead Bread


3 cups bread flour (such as Harvest King bread flour)
1/4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups warm water


1. Mix the dough: The night before, combine all the ingredients with a wooden spoon in a large bowl until a shaggy dough forms. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and allow it to sit on a countertop for 12 to 20 hours.

2. Shape and preheat: The dough will rise and become wet, sticky, and bubbly. With a wet spatula, dump the on a floured surface. Fold ends of dough over a few times with the spatula and nudge it into a ball shape. You can use your hands if you like, just keep your hands wet so that the dough does not stick. Generously dust a cotton towel (not terrycloth) with flour. Set dough seam side down on top of towel. Fold towel over the dough. Let it nap for 2 hours. When you’ve got about a half hour left, slip your covered pot into the oven and preheat to 450F.

3. Bake: Your dough should have doubled in size. Remove pot from oven. Holding towel, dump wobbly dough into pot. Doesn’t matter which way it lands. Shake to even dough out. Cover. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover, bake another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is beautifully golden and middle of loaf is 210F. Remove and let cool on wired rack.

Yields 1 loaf.

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