Crusty No-Knead Bread
If there is one rule I apply to cooking it is: I do not bake. Because my cooking is very imprecise, and I don’t really follow anything in life to the T, baking always seemed constraining to me. During baking recipes, my imprecision has led us to many kitchen meltdowns. Additionally, I don’t like sweet foods, so I was never motivated to dabble in making cookies or cakes. Right out of college, because I preferred homemade pizza, I learned to make pizza dough, but that seemed pretty basic, and sort of like cheating. My father-in-law, an avid bread baker, kept encouraging me to try making bread. Bread is one my favorite foods, but for some reason, I was really resistant. I was afraid of a kitchen disaster, followed by a meltdown and a few tears, which would lead me to never trying to bake bread again. Additionally, every bread recipe I saw was à la Martha Stewart: 1400 ingredients with twice as many directions, enough to make your head spin (or me scream”WHO HAS THE TIME TO DO THIS MARTHA STEWART? WHO? TELL ME, BECAUSE I WANT TO MEET THEM!). Ever the calm father-in-law, JEM kept insisting it was easier than I imagined, but this was coming from a man who builds furniture, puts up molding, and hangs windows. Everything must seem easier to him! JEM’s crafty building skills are what make him a good baker, he is precise, I assumed.
While in Maine, we visited old friends of ours, MM and KM, who live in Portland. They recently had an adorable baby girl, and they are adjusting to going back to work with the baby. When I opened the fridge to put Serafina’s milk, or “Mi?” as she likes to call it, I noticed a giant vat with something odd, gooey, and gray looking inside it. Trying to be polite, I closed the door and didn’t say anything. It was only an hour later when KM and MM explained that they make their own bread, where I learned about the vat. In order to cut down on processed foods, they started making a no-knead bread that you can keep in the fridge for a week. When they get home from work, they grab a bunch, set it on parchment paper on the counter to rise, then bake it for dinner. They enthusiastically showed us a King Arthur Flour catalogue as well as a baking book on easy breads, called Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. After much encouragement, they had me convinced that I could do this. I mean, both of them are busy working with a newborn, if they have the time, we all do right?
After getting home, I perused the King Arthur Flour website, and found their free recipes for No-Knead Breads. I read the ingredients (Only Four!), the directions (Simple and Approachable!), and the reviews (Perfect Newbie Bread!), and I realized I could really do this. So, yesterday, I mixed the ingredients while Serafina ate her snack, then while she napped today I made two different loafs, one to eat and one to give. The bread was indeed delicious. I mean, ridiculously wonderful. So, I have re-posted the recipe here for you, and I encourage each and everyone of you to give it a try. Seriously, this was very easy, very quick, and so much yummier than store bought bread, even the kind they have at the bakery. JEM is presently out of town, but I am thinking I should have some fresh bread for him next time he comes over to help with the bookshelves. A sort-of, Thanks, and You were Right gift.
Here are some shots of the bread:
Now you really want to try it, right?
No-Knead Crusty White Bread
King Arthur Flour Recipe (21 August 2011)
Their note on the bread: The most basic of all no-knead loaves, this is a wonderful way to get into yeast-bread baking. The easy stir-together dough rests in your refrigerator, developing flavor all the time, till you’re ready to bake. About 90 minutes before you want to serve bread, grab a handful of dough, shape it, let it rise, then bake for 30 minutes. The result? Incredible, crusty artisan-style bread. If you’re a first-time bread-baker, you’ll never believe this bread came out of your own oven. if you’re a seasoned yeastie, you’ll love this recipe’s simplicity.
Our thanks to Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, whose wonderful book, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” is the inspiration for this recipe.
Read our blog about this bread, with additional photos, at Bakers’ Banter.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
|*The flour/liquid ratio is important in this recipe. If you measure flour by sprinkling it into your measuring cup, then gently sweeping off the excess, use 7 1/2 cups. If you measure flour by dipping your cup into the canister, then sweeping off the excess, use 6 1/2 cups. Most accurate of all, and guaranteed to give you the best results, if you measure flour by weight, use 32 ounces.|
|1) Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or a large (6-quart), food-safe plastic bucket. For first-timers, “lukewarm” means about 105°F, but don’t stress over getting the temperatures exact here. Comfortably warm is fine; “OUCH, that’s hot!” is not. Yeast is a living thing; treat it nicely.|
|2) Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a big spoon or dough whisk till everything is combined.|
|3) Next, you’re going to let the dough rise. If you’ve made the dough in a plastic bucket, you’re all set — just let it stay there, covering the bucket with a lid or plastic wrap; a shower cap actually works well here. If you’ve made the dough in a bowl that’s not at least 6-quart capacity, transfer it to a large bowl; it’s going to rise a lot. There’s no need to grease the bowl, though you can if you like; it makes it a bit easier to get the dough out when it’s time to bake bread.|
|4) Cover the bowl or bucket, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. (If you’re pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it’ll get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it’ll rise, then fall. That’s OK; that’s what it’s supposed to do.|
|5) When you’re ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough — a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It’ll be about the size of a softball, or a large grapefruit.|
|6) Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball, or a longer log. Don’t fuss around trying to make it perfect; just do the best you can.|
|7) Place the dough on a piece of parchment (if you’re going to use a baking stone); or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the dough moist as it rests before baking.|
|8) Let the dough rise for about 45 to 60 minutes. It won’t appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it’ll seem to settle and expand. Preheat your oven (and baking stone, if you’re using one) to 450°F while the dough rests. Place a shallow metal or cast iron pan (not glass, Pyrex, or ceramic) on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go.|
|9) When you’re ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2″ deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that’s OK, it’ll pick right up in the hot oven.|
|10) Place the bread in the oven, and carefully pour the 1 cup hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It’ll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly.|
|11) Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown.|
|12) Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.|
|13) Yield: 3 or 4 loaves, depending on size|