I love bread. I’ve said it. Bread and butter…bread and melted cheese..a grilled sandwich of any type. I’m not ashamed. However, I am cutting back on carbs like so many other people I know and unfortunately bread was the first food item to get the boot. When I decide to have some toast, or nut butter or hummus spread, I want that bread to be carb-worthy, with natural ingredients and no additives. Although you can buy an artisan bread at the bakery with wholesome ingredients, it is possible to make one at home IF you have the patience and IF you have the motivation to try something new. And when you do get the urge, this No-Knead Bread is one you have to try. There is something rewarding, at least to me, in trying new techniques.
Like the title says, there is no kneading. I don’t like kneading — I actually use my bread-maker for kneading and the first rise when I make breads and remove it for shaping and additional rising. So this recipe sounded too good to be true. I saw one being baked on a Chef at Home Michael Smith – No Knead Bread Foodnetwork episode. It looks so perfect: crusty on the outside, soft and full of beautiful airy pockets on the inside.
I located the original Jim Lahey No-Knead Bread recipe and here I will present you with the white flour version – there is a whole wheat ‘country’ version on the Michael Smith link mentioned above.
Blend 1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt and 3 cups of all-purpose unbleached white flour in a large mixing bowl.
To the dry blend, I added exactly 1 5/8 cups of warm water and mixed until it looks sticky and ‘rough’. I don’t know why precisely 1 5/8 but I followed the recipe exactly. If you have a two cup measuring cup, it’s halfway between the 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 cup mark; it’s 384.456 ml for you detailed folk but it’s easier my way.Seal the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and put aside on the counter for about 14 hours. I usually start the bread after dinner and let it rest overnight. Anything from 12-18 hours will do. The yeast will start to activate slowly over this time and the plastic wrap will become taut and stretched.Below is how the dough should look when finished rising. Very exciting to see progress in all those tiny little surface bubbles!I sprinkled some flour onto a silicone baking mat. The recipe says a towel but I didn’t want to dirty a towel. These mats are easy to clean in the sink.
The risen dough is flipped onto the floured mat. I sprinkled some coarse corn flour on the sticky top, shaped it into a rough circle, covered with a towel and let rise again until about doubled, two more hours.Oven is now preheated to 450°F. My cast iron Dutch oven is placed in the oven to heat also…with the lid.
Be so careful with the lid when you remove it with an oven-safe oven mitt. Gently flip the risen dough into the preheated cooking pot. Shake the pot gently to distribute the dough a little. Place the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes. Although the recipes says up to 30 minutes, I found that an additional 15 minutes without the lid created a perfect browned crusty bread that sounded hollow when tapped.
Below is a partial whole wheat flour version on the left and a unbleached white wheat flour on the right. The white flour bread rose a little more but the whole wheat was just as delicious. Don’t be intimidated to bread-making. It gives total satisfaction and the aroma of fresh baked bread made by you at home is worth it. Enjoy!
Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread Recipe
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery, No-Knead Bread
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18 hours at room temperature. I do this step overnight and start the next step in the morning.
2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a silicon baking mat and place the dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour, bran or cornmeal and fold it over on itself once or twice, roughly shaping it into a circle. Cover with a cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be about 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 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove the lid and slide your hand under the baking mat 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.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.