October 28, 2009

No-knead bread

I finally got onto the no-knead bread bandwagon and made my first decent loaf of bread! It smelled a bit too yeasty for my liking, but I think that's because I left the dough for 24 hours instead of 12-18 as stipulated by the Jim Lahey recipe reported by Mark Bittman @ New York Times. In essence, though, I followed the Jim Lahey recipe.

It was an amazing loaf of bread for the minimal effort, though. It had nice holes, a great nutty-golden-brown crust, and that home-baked, country style aroma and texture to it. I'm going to practice this recipe and refine it so it's slightly less dense (wet) and less yeasty.

No kneading! No worrying about the rising! This is such a simple recipe.

Basically, you mix together flour, yeast, water and salt in a bowl (I used plastic).

Cover with clingfilm and put it in a warm dark area to sit for a while. I made this on a Monday night and put it overnight in my pantry, then as I left for work the next day I put it in the fridge so the rising process would slow down a bit (since I wouldn't get home 'til late Tuesday night).

When I got home Tuesday night, I pulled it out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit (to speed things up, I boiled some water in a kettle and put the bowl of dough next to it).

Then I floured the work surface, poured the dough onto it, and slapped it around for a few minutes, before transferring to a greased plastic bowl* to sit while preheating the oven to 450F/230C with the Le Creuset enamel ware pot that Jon bought as a birthday gift (thanks honey!). The Bittman recipe says to leave it for 2 hours for the second rise, but I was impatient and only waited 1/2 hour. The bread turned out OK but I think I'll try to leave for longer next time.

* NOT the floured dish towel that Lahey/Bittman specifies -- other people seem to have had problems with the dough sticking to the towel so I decided not to risk it. Using a towel doesn't seem to be strictly necessary for the recipe to work.

Then take the preheated pot out of the oven, remove lid, jiggle the dough into the pot, replace lid and place back in oven. Bake for 30 minutes with lid on, then another 20-30 minutes with lid off.

Take bread out of oven and let cool (this is important -- time is needed for the carbon dioxide caused by the yeast to escape)! I found that the bread came out of the enamel pot easily, it didn't need greasing, corn meal or other cheats.

Most important step: Eat with good butter and jam.

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