Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Easy Peasy No-Knead Rustic Bread

Leigh Anne posted this recipe a few days ago and I was salivating by the time I got to the bottom of the post. The original recipe was published in the New York Times, and I am quite indebted to Jim Lahey from the Sullivan Street Bakery for publishing this little gem. I've already made it twice with excellent results. Ethan declared me the best mom ever for this one and I had a taste test panel of a few friends and family that gave it two thumbs up. The crust is pretty hearty, but does soften as it cools and especially by the next day once it's been wrapped in plastic over night.
This is a great yeast bread for beginners because the hands on time is literally less than 5 minutes. You just have to plan ahead and start it the night before you want it. You simply stir the four basic ingredients together, cover it with plastic wrap and walk away for 12-18 hours. I started the first batch at 5 in the afternoon before heading to work and didn't touch it again until I woke up at noon. I got some large bubbles on the outside, so I think that was pushing the envelope of rise time, but it still tasted wonderful. The picture above is how it'll look after it's been rising and is ready to be shaped.
Be pretty generous with the flour on your work surface, because this is a really sticky, well hydrated dough. I scraped it out of the bowl and onto my well floured Roul Pat, fold it in half twice and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Next, shape it into a nice little ball. Here's a You Tube video clip for those of you that don't know how to do this well. It's really pretty simple. I tug the dough in all directions from the bottom and pinch it together on top, repeating a few times until the ball of dough is nice and smooth and has a good amount of surface tension to retain shape. Generously flour a tea towel or similar cloth, then dust the ball of dough with a bit more flour before covering with another tea towel. The first time I made this, I didn't get quite enough flour on the cloth and it stuck in a couple of places when I was trying to remove it. The second time I went a bit over the top and had flour all over the oven...third time will be the charm, I'm sure.
Walk away for 2 hours again. Turn your oven on and stick your large covered oven safe pot in it while it heats up. I found that my 12 inch dutch oven was absolutely perfect for this task. Once the oven is heated up, carefully pick the dough ball up from underneath the towel, then flip it over into the pot. Put the lid on. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 10-15 more minutes until it's golden and delicious.
The aroma when you pull this out of the oven is amazing. The crust crackles as it cools, which is just music to my ears. This is one bread that you should not cut right out of the oven - best to let it sit for an hour or so to let the insides set up.
Here's the full recipe:
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 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
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 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.
**A word about flour. I've been experimenting a lot with rustic breads in the past few weeks, and I find that switching to unbleached flour has really improved the flavor of my bread. I also like to add a small percentage of whole grain flour to round out the flavor. The first batch I made, I used 1/2 cup white wheat flour and it was very good. The second batch I made, I used 1/4 cup each semolina and rye flour and it was even better. Too much whole grain flour will make a heavy loaf and it won't react the same way, but a little bit is definitely a worthwhile addition.


Amanda K said...

Yumm!! I can't wait to try this!

Julie said...

Is this the fabulous bread we had with lunch today? i had the Rosmary one, and I didn't know if it was this recipe with Rosemary or if it was the Focacia

Had so much fun today! thanks. Hope to come again

Nurse Heidi said...

Yep, it is! I just trimmed my rosemary bush yesterday and so much excess that I decided to add it to one of the loaves of this. I also used 1 cup of a mixture of semolina flour and white wheat with the remaining amount unbleached all purpose flour. I love adding a bit of whole grain, and 1/3 seems to be about the right ratio for this recipe. I also discovered that the semolina flour is really great for dusting the towel - I could have gotten away with a lot less all purpose flour (and less mess). I dusted a thin layer of semolina, then some all purpose, where in the past I've used lots of all purpose but still usually have at least one spot that sticks and makes a bit of a mess.

This is a dough that takes a little practice to get the hang of because it is so moist and sloppy, so don't give up if it doesn't work the first time. Don't be afraid to work in a bit of flour as you turn the dough over and form the loaf, too - you can't hurt it.

Good to meet you today!