A few years ago Mark Bittman from the New York Times challenged Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York to come up with a recipe for home baked bread that was as good as any artisanal loaf from a bakery. Jim met that challenge and the legend of the no knead bread was born. In fact, according to Jim this recipe is so easy that a six year old can produce bread that’s as good, if not better than any bakery in the country! This recipe has been around the blogosphere for a long time and I’ve been baking it for just about as long. The first time I made it my family didn’t believe that it was home made and thought I’d purchased it, it really is that good and more importantly, very very simple. The recipe is unique in that the water to flour quantity is very high and only a 1/4 of a teaspoon of yeast is used. The reason for this being that the dough is rested for a very long time. You need to make the dough mixture a day ahead as it needs to prove for about 18 hours. The bread is then cooked in an extremely hot oven and in an extremely hot cast iron pot with the lid on – thus replicating the heat, steam and intensity of a professional bakers oven. Ingenious! The dough for the loaf of bread above was made on a cold and windy afternoon and I don’t think I put the bowl with the dough mixture in a warm enough environment. The dough mixture after the fermentation time should have lots of little holes on the top and mine didn’t have as many as it should. So I’d recommend you make sure that this dough sits in a warm environment and if your oven has a dough proving setting then this would be good to use on a cold day.
Ingredients – Makes 1 loaf From the New York Times
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (I used Organic plain flour)
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups warm 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. 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. 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. 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.