In the early 80's I lived in France for a while. If you have never been to France, let me tell you about the bread. It is unlike bread here. It is fresh. It is crispy. It is flavorful. The French feel strongly about their bread. In France, you buy bread every day. Every day. You would never eat bread that is over a day old, unless you are making it into something else (think Pain Perdue which means, literally, lost bread). I have been searching for that bread since I left France. I have come close when buying the bread in a bakery, but have not been able to make it at home. This is the closest I have come.
This bread is SUPER easy. There is really no kneading! I was worried about the amount of yeast (only 1/4 teaspoon!), but it worked, too! This recipe was first published in the NY Times in 2006.
Everyone should make bread at least once! If you only make one loaf of bread, this is the one. It is crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside. The smell in your house as the bread bakes will make you do a happy dance, maybe even break into song!
Yes, it's that good.
I'm going to walk you through it.
First, right before bed, dump 3 cups of bread flour in a large bowl. Dump in the rest of the ingredients. Get your wooden spoon and stir it up. It's going to look like a big shaggy mess. That's just fine. Cover it up with plastic wrap, tell it goodnight, leave it on the counter and go to bed.
When you get up, have breakfast, take care of the kiddos and the puppy and get around to remembering the bread dough (about 10-12 hours), it should look like this.
On a lightly floured surface, using a wet spatula, dump the sticky dough onto the floured surface. Now, you don't want to incorporate more flour into the dough, you just don't want it to stick. I wet my hands instead of flouring them just to keep the wet/dry ratio equal. Form the dough into a rough ball and plop it into a bowl that you have lined with a floured towel or a parchment paper (this is the one I recommend - less laundry.) If you use a narrow bowl it will be a taller bread. If you use the counter or a wide bowl it will be flatter. It all tastes the same. Cover it with a clean towel and let it rest for a couple of hours.
About 1/2 hour before the dough is done resting get the baking pan and the oven ready. You are going to need a heavy duty pan with a lid. I use my cast iron enameled pan. The pan needs to be pretty sturdy because it is a HOT oven. Round, oblong, it doesn't matter - but it needs to be at least 4" tall.
Stick your empty pan and lid in the oven and crank up the oven to 450 degrees. Let the pan and oven preheat for about 1/2 hour. Just do it.
After pre-heating, remove the hot pot from oven. I sprinkle corn meal on the bottom of the pan, but I don't think you have to. Now plop this wobbly dough into the hot pot. Doesn’t matter how it lands – actually, the messier it lands, the more “rustic” it looks. (That's it! My house is not messy, it's "rustic"!) Shake pot a bit to even out the dough.
Cover and put back into the oven. Bake covered for 30 minutes. This is what it looks like at the 30 minute mark.
Then uncover and bake further for 15-20 minutes. To check – you can either tap the bread (should sound low, hollow, like a drum) or take its temperature (should be 210F in middle).
Remove and let cool. The No Knead Bread really does sing – the crust crackles as it cools. Listen to it!
secret: Because the bread has such high water content- the crust will not stay crisp forever. If you aren’t eating soon, you can re-crisp the crust by re-heating it in a 350F oven for 10 minutes.
That's it! You will be rewarded with a thin, crunchy brown crust, large, open holes. The bread is slightly chewy, flavorful and perfect texture.
Try it. It will make you feel fabulous!
I found the No Knead Bread Recipe from The Steamy Kitchen Blog who got it from Mark Bittman of NY Times who got it from Sullivan Street Bakery.
No Knead Bread
3 cups bread flour 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast1 teaspoon fine table salt (or 3/4 tablespoon of kosher salt)1 1/2 cups warm water
Covered pot (five-quart or larger cast iron, Pyrex, ceramic, enamel...something that can go into a 450F oven.)
1. Mix dough: The night before, combine all ingredients in a big bowl with a wooden spoon until the dough just comes together. It will be a shaggy, doughy mess. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 12-20 hours on counter top.
2. Shape & preheat: The dough will now be wet, sticky and bubbly. With a wet spatula, dump the dough on a floured surface. Fold ends of dough over a few times with the spatula and nudge it into a ball shape. You can use your hands if you like, just keep your hands wet so that the dough does not stick. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on counter. Plop your dough onto parchment paper. Lift parchment paper up with dough and place into a large bowl. Cover bowl with a towel. Let it nap for 2 hours. When you've got about a half hour left, slip your covered pot into the oven and preheat to 450F.
3. Bake: Your dough should have doubled in size. Remove pot from oven. Grab the ends of the parchment paper and lift entire wobbly dough blob out of bowl into pot. Doesn't matter which way it lands. Shake to even dough out. Cover. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover, bake another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is beautifully golden and middle of loaf is 210F. Remove and let cool on wired rack. If not eating right away, you can re-crisp crust in 350F oven for 10 minutes.