30 Jan
Posted in: food
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Bread: 101, the No Knead Bread

One of the things I really love making is bread.  There’s nothing like the smell of yeast in the kitchen to make me feel at home and put a smile on my face.  And although I used to make bread every week, I don’t get a chance to so often right now.  At least I try to make it on holidays and birthdays and such. It usually disappears in one day.

The thing about bread is that so many people are afraid to make it at home without a bread machine. PISH POSH! I don’t have a bread machine and I’m going to talk you through making your first loaf of bread. Let me tell you, it’s easy easy easy!  Now, I’m starting you off with this one because I don’t want to scare away people from bread-making!  I want you to see how really easy it is. I promise that my next bread recipe will be a Brioche – it’s one of the most daunting bread recipes out there (thank you France) and I will demystify it for you.

The bread that I’m going to introduce to you today is the first bread that I ever made.  It’s a recipe for total amateurs but it’s flavour is complete country baked-by-granny fresh and yummy.

Now the first thing I do before baking is get all of my ingredients together.  To start out, you’ll need:

3 cups (375 g)  of all purpose flour (that’s 000 in Argentina) – plus a little more for dusting
1/4 tsp dry instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp  salt
1 5/8 cups (385 mL) water (use the bottled kind. fresh water = fresh bread)

Aside from this, you’ll need a spoon, a bowl for mixing, a couple of cotton dish towels, some wax paper and if you’d like, bran or cornmeal or kosher salt to decorate the top.

I must say, this bread was originally published by Jim Leahy of Sullivan Street Bakery, and I read it in Mark Bittman’s column of the New York Times. It’s best started in the evening so that you can let the bread sit all night (for 12-18 hours) or in the morning so that you can let the bread sit all day (say, while you’re at work) on the kitchen counter. Basically, the trick to no knead bread is that letting the bread sit for a long period of time allows for the yeast to feast and work that gluten.

1. In a large bowl combine your dry ingredients (flour, yeast and salt). Add the water and and stir with a spoon until blended; don’t worry about how it looks. It looks kind of gross and sticky. Just scrape it off the spoon and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 12 hours – preferably 18, at a warm room temperature.

2. When the surface is dotted with bubbles, the dough is ready. Lightly flour your work and place the 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 it rest about 15 minutes.

3. Flour the surface again and make sure to flour your hands as well, so that the dough doesn’t break up and totally stick to your hands. QUICKLY (and gently) shape the dough into a ball. Here, the recipe says to 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. I found that this bread sticks to everything, so if you have a piece of wax paper, I would suggest laying  the bread on top of that instead of a cotton dish towel. 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. (Yeah, I poked.)

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450-500 degrees F (232-260 C). Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; (watch the video below) 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.

Here’s the video by Mark Bittman and Jim Leahy. They show you how simple it is.  They even say it’s so easy that a four year old can do it.  So get baking!

And there you have it – voila! Country style bread.  It’s great to serve sliced and toasted with some homemade jam.

So, what do you think?