notquitejunecleaver wrote a post that mentioned a recipe for no knead bread she hoped to try. While her recipe is quite different from the one I use, she is 100% right in saying that this bread took the blog/flog world by storm!
I stumbled across the no knead bread phenomenon earlier this year, and I have to say it is now one of my all time favourite bread recipes. First published ( to my knowledge) in the New York Times,and credited to a baker called Jim Lahey, this bread is stunningly simple to make and absolutely the best homemade bread I have ever made. The crust really does crackle as it cools and is so crisp and delicious to eat. The inside is full of holes and has a wonderful bouncy, stretchy texture.
Perfect served with antipasto platters: feta, olives, taramasalata, dip, that kind of thing, it is guaranteed to bring you lots and lots of compliments 🙂
I have been trying my hand at making bread for years now. I have a bread machine, and I have a dough hook on my Kenwood Chef, I made my own sourdough starter but I was never 100% satisfied with my results. This no knead recipe takes a completely different route. No kneading, a very wet dough, and a verylong proving time, no doubt contibute to the perfect loaf. However, the unique method of cooking this bread also sets it apart from other bread recipes.
The loaf is cooked inside a covered (in my case) cast iron casserole/Dutch oven inside your oven. That’s right. You put the uncooked dough into your pre-heated pot and put that inside the oven. The lid is removed a half hour before the end of the cooking time to brown the crust.
I have read that the covered, heavy pot, in some ways replicates the intense heat and humidity of a “real” baker’s oven.
People have written about using LeCrueset cookware ( big$$$), Corningware, Pyrex, anything really with a lid that can withstand the high cooking temperatures. Just don’t use anything with handles that aren’t ovenproof.
My cast iron Dutch oven has turned out to be perfect for the job, but I would encourage you to improvise with what you have, just so you can try this recipe. You can always use a couple of layers of foil if you have a suitable pot that doesn’t have a lid.
It’s not a huge loaf, and it’s not a sky-high loaf, but, if you told your guests you bought the beautiful bread they’re eating from a chic Artisan baker for $5 or $6 – they’d believe you: it’s that good.
This is the recipe and the method I use. All credit goes to the original creator of the recipe 😉
3 cups of plain flour or “strong” bread flour
1/4 teaspoon dried yeast ( I use the granules that come in little foil sachets in a box. One foil sachet lasts forever with this recipe)
2 teaspoons of salt
1 1/2 cups of water
Extra flour or bran or cornmeal for dusting ( I usually just use flour)
Put everything into a large bowl and mix it all together. Now, and here’s the slightly tricky part. Flours differ and you may need slightly more water than the 1 1/2 cups. The dough should be wet and sticky. You may have to use your discretion. Some recipes call for 1 & 5/8’s of a cup of water…
You cannot pick this dough up at this stage, or roll it in a ball, or make it stay in a shape – it is supposed to be wet so don’t let that bother you. Trust me 🙂
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and walk away for at least 12 hours, preferably 18 hours. Just leave it out on the bench. No need to put it in the fridge. It needs a nice warmish temperature to get going. If it’s very cold in the kitchen up your way, just leave it longer or put it somewhere warmer in the house.
The dough will end up with lovely bubbles on it’s surface. This is the action of the yeast and it is a good thing.
Tip the dough out onto a piece of baking paper or a silicone mat dusted with flour. It will be quite sloppy. Don’t worry.
Flop it about into a semblance of a loaf shape using the extra flour. I use my spatula to help shape it.
At this point the original recipe calls for the dough to be placed onto a floured tea-towel. Too much mess for me I’m afraid. I plop mine onto a new piece of baking paper that’s in a bowl. That way I keep the shape of the loaf, and avoid the sticky, dough filled tea-towel business.
Leave for another hour.
While your dough is resting, heat the oven to 250C or 450F.
Put your casserole/Dutch oven/heatproof pot, along with the lid in the oven to heat up.
No need to grease the pot.
After 1/2 an hour, carefully remove the pot from the oven and tip/shake your loaf into it. It doesn’t matter if it’s not very neat, and it doesn’t matter if flour falls in there with it. Give the pot a little shake to even things up and put the lid on.
It goes back into the oven for about 30 minutes and then you take the lid off and bake for another 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and brown.
My loaves haven’t stuck to the pot, but if yours look like sticking, gently lever an offset spatula or bread knife under the loaf to loosen it.
Cool your loaf on a wire rack.
Now, the temptation is great to rip straight into this loaf! But, and this is important, please let it cool for at least an hour. The texture will improve, the bread will still be warm and I guarantee it’s worth the wait 🙂
I had cut this loaf into wedges to have with a platter. It can of course be sliced like regular bread, and used in what ever way you like. I have read of fabulous toasted sandwiches being made with these loafs. Ours has never lasted long enough to make sandwiches…
Let me know what you think.