Sunday, September 18, 2011
Behind the Times
I like to believe that I'm not so easily susceptible to fads; I'm definitely not the first one to jump on every trend bandwagon that comes along, preferring to stick to classics (and this is true for many things - fashion, books, food!). Of course, this also means that when a "fad" is clearly not going away anytime soon and I eventually succumb, I'm left wondering why on earth I held back for so long on something that is so awesome. This happened with Harry Potter, leggings (don't laugh) to name a few....and no-knead bread.
The first no-knead recipe was published by the New York times in 2006. Yea, It's been FIVE years. When it came out, I was totally of the "why wouldn't I just knead my bread? I LIKE kneading bread" argument so didn't bother trying out the recipe. Also I find stirring a stiff batter way more difficult than kneading dough so I didn't really see how this would be easier. I was also turned off by the VERY long rising time since I'm not really a "plan my recipes ahead" kind of girl. But parts of the recipe did appeal to me - the long rising time would develop more flavour and complexity in the bread and also require less yeast, and the very moist dough baked in a dutch oven produces a "steaming" effect which leads to light, holey bread with a crackly crust. So I've used recipes in the past the borrows from these techniques but have never actually tried the REAL no-knead recipe.
Then last weekend I knew I wanted to bake some bread on Sunday and had some time to plan in advance. And to be honest, now that I make bread and pizza that much more often sometimes all that kneading does get a bit tiring. So I decided to finally try it out....and? I really seriously cannot believe I have waited THIS long to make no-knead bread. It actually makes me sad. SO easy and SO good! The dough is actually so wet that you have none of the problems with stirring it, and the flavour and texture really IS amazing. So light and fluffy on the inside with a super crackly crust. Yum. Adam tried a slice and immediately started chanting "MORE BREAD, MORE BREAD" which shows just how good this is since he is not the carb-obsessed bread lover that I am. So anyway. Please, if you haven't made it yet try it. It is definitely worth the time and planning ahead!
Adapted from the New York Times
Total time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours for rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
½ tsp instant yeast
1½ tsp salt
1¾ cups water (I'm going to note here that the original recipe calls for 1 5/8 of a cup which is a very specific amount. I ended up using a little more so I'm just rounding to 3/4 here...just use as much water as you need to get the consistency as described below)
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed (I used cornmeal)
1. In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast and salt. Add water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. It shouldn't be batter-like but you definitely shouldn't be able to knead it at all with your hands. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and let dough rest at least 12-18 hours at warm room temperature. When dough is ready, the surface should be dotted with bubbles. If you don't want to bake the bread for a few more days, keep it in the fridge and let it get back to room temperature for a couple hours before you continue to Step 2.
2. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover the ball loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your work surface or fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball (I used more flour than I thought I would in this step; this dough is REALLY sticky). Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) or a silicone baking sheet with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on the towel and dust it with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let it 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 you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Farenheit, 232 degrees Celsius. Put a 6 to 8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic - I used my dutch oven) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from oven. Slide your hand under the towel or silicone baking sheet and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. I probably won't look very nice or much like a loaf of anything but don't worry too much about that. Shake the pot a couple times if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes, then for another 15 to 30 minutes with the lid off until your loaf is browned and delicious looking! Cool on a rack and try to let it rest for about 20 minutes before you cut it.