Friday, February 15, 2008

Au Naturel

What kind of food blogger would I be if I didn’t at least once talk about the wonder that is THE No-Knead Bread?

More than a year and a half ago, the NY Times published an article about a “truly minimalist breadmaking technique” thought up by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan. I wonder if Mr. Lahey ever imagined that his recipe (and baking process) would create such a buzz around bread baking? Did he ever think that people would buy Dutch ovens for the sole purpose of baking his no-knead bread? Could he have known that countless blog posts would be flooded with comments and questions about this “revolutionary process” and turn non-bakers into bread baking gods? I’m exaggerating, ever so slightly, here but you all know what I’m talking about.

The first no-knead bread I baked was a year ago, in January 2007, after seeing Deb’s post about the bread at Smitten Kitchen. As many a person had done before me, I hesitated to make the bread because of the “put room temperature dough in a really hot pot” direction; I was afraid my pot would crack because of the temperature variation. But then I decided to try it anyway since the only Dutch oven I have is an old 4-quart oval Vision Ware my mom gave me. You know, those brown Pyrex dishes that were all the rage in the 90’s, well, my Mom got a whole set. If it did break during the cooking process, that could be my excuse to get a new Dutch oven (woohoo!). But, it didn’t break and what I got, instead of a brand new Dutch oven, was the most incredible loaf of bread I had ever baked in my life. I couldn’t believe the crust was so crunchy, it actually crackled while cooling (I am aware a number of other bloggers have noted this but I don’t care, I’m late with this post anyway)! The crumb’s texture was incredible, it was moist and flavorful.

After that first loaf, I went a little nuts and tried “a few” variations: Cranberry-Orange, Chocolate-Raisin, Multi-Grain, different types of flour… I’m telling you, this recipe is so adaptable, you could do pretty much anything you want with it except mess it up! I have to admit though, my favorite “variation” is closest to the original as possible, “au naturel” you might say, strait out of the oven, with steam coming out of the moist, warm bread. I still use the no-knead recipe regularly, especially when I need something to bring to a dinner party. I always get the same reaction: “You MADE that bread yourself!?”. So, if you’ve been on another planet for the last year and a half, or just afraid to ruin your only Dutch oven, here’s your chance to try this recipe! Better late than never…

And since this month's CLICK event theme is flour, the photo at the top of this post is my entry! Head on over to jugalbandi to see the other entries.

No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Flour, wheat bran or cornmeal for dusting, as needed

In a large bowl combine 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 70 degrees.

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 sheet of parchment paper with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on parchment paper and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with a kitchen 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 4- 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 parchment paper 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 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

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18 comments:

Ellieut said...

I think I am one of those people that have been on another planet for the past year! I am going to try this one out tonight. Can't wait!

LyB said...

Ellieut, I'm so glad someone out there has never heard of this bread! I was hesitant to post about it as there are so many bloggers out there who have already talked about it. Do let me know how your bread turns out!

Yelda said...

I will try this bread as well... It looks delicious :) But I am little bit confused about how to bake it! You put it in a pot?? Please give me more detail on this. Thanks...

LyB said...

Hi Yelda! Yes, you actually put it in a preheated oven-safe pot, it's that step that creates the wonderful crunchy crust, as the humidity stays inside the pot. It's all explained in the recipe. Also, the NY Times article I've linked to is very informative. Let me know if you try it!

Elle said...

Looks amazing! I've been dying to try this, and since you mention that you've done a whole grain version, now I'm definitely going to! Is there any way I could get you to post your recipe for the whole grain?

Cookie baker Lynn said...

I haven't tried this bread. Yours looks gorgeous. I can almost taste it from your beautiful pictures.

Ginny said...

You inspired me. I tried No-Knead Bread again last night/today! It is so yummy! I love your photographs! A perfect use of flour!

LyB said...

Elle - The multi-grain version I made I used 1 1/4 cups of whole wheat and 1 3/4 cups of white flour; after the initial 18 hour rise I added wheat bran, oats, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and raisins (a few tbsps of each). Then I let it rise for the 2 hour period and baked it like the regular version. Play around with the ingredients and find what works best for you, and then come back and tell me all about it!

Lynn - Thank you so much! The bread is so photogenic I must have taken 150 pictures of it! Thank goodness for digital photography!

Ginny - Yay! I'm so glad I got you to try this bread again, it's just so easy and delicious!

Aimée said...

Very curious. I haven't heard of no-knead bread either, but yours looks stunning!

LyB said...

Aimée - I'm so glad so many people have never heard of no-knead bread! I was sure when I wrote this post people would be like "No-knead bread AGAIN!" ;) You should try it, it's pretty impressive.

Elle said...

LyB--thanks so much. I can't wait to try this! I've got to round up the ingredients, and when I do, I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!

tara said...

This is a staple in our household, most frequently with 1 cup of whole wheat flour substituted in. We'll buy specialty breads and whatnot, but there is usually a boule of this around as well. My husband and son cannot resist stealing the heel as it comes out of the oven. I find it terribly adaptable, terribly forgiving, and terribly good.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

hi very nice blog n pics!i must add u to my links, need more Canadian blogsites :)

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

How 'Au Narurel' & beautiful this is! I don't have a big oven proof dish...not sure actually, but would LOVE to try this. I am pretty yeast-challenged & bread making has the potential of scaring me to death. This looks SUPER!! Great post & lovely click entry...BTW, love the name of your blog too!! Ciao

LyB said...

Elle - You're welcome, I can't wait to see how it turns out!

Tara - I agree 100%, terribly forgiving recipe.

Terri - Thank you very much!

Passionate Baker - Thank you so much! Making bread is a bit scary at first but if you try a simple recipe you'll see it's not so bad. Deb over at Smitten Kitchen has some very helpful tips on bread making:
http://smittenkitchen.com/2006/09/the-other-side-of-atkins/

Alfie said...

Wow, a bread without kneading! - I can't wait to give it a try. Your photos are so lovely - inspirational!

Anonymous said...

The recipe says to set the dough on the towel, is is supposed to say set the dough on the parchement paper? Thanks for the awesome blog. I thought I could smell the bread just from your description alone.

LyB said...

Anonymous - You're absolutely right, I'm fixing that right now. Thanks so much for the visit, I hope you make this bread it's incredible.

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