Bread! I’m so enjoying the no-knead, three years after I finally gave myself over to it, that I feel the need to repost the recipe with updated guidelines on how I’m making it these days.
Here’s the first thing to know about this bread. People talk about it being “five minutes of work.” That is complete crap. I just timed myself making it:
Three minutes flat.
So let’s not kid ourselves here.
I bought the book inspired by the recipe, My Bread (man, so possessive! I guess the dude got tired of everyone making it themselves and yelling from the rooftops “This is MY BREAD!!” like I do) by Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery. It was a quick, nice read, but nothing in it was as revolutionary as the basic, stellar recipe, the one so many of us know by heart now (when asked about the great crust on the loaf I brought over to my father-out-law, I repeated the entire recipe off the top of my head.).
It’s amazing that so many words seem to be necessary to describe so little work, but here we go:
Oh: Feel free to add in nuts, seeds, chopped olives, dried cherries and chocolate chips, etc. I’ve made a stellar chocolate-cherry bread, olive bread, rye bread—the sky is the limit, my friends. These days I exclusively weigh the ingredients (in grams), and I think it’s made a huge difference. A reliable electronic kitchen scale is cheap, and will make your bread better, trust me. I also usually replace a few tablespoons of water with good bubbly sourdough starter. It gives the bread a more complex flavor. If you’re weighing the water, remember that sourdough usually weighs more than water so you might need to add a little water back in.
Also: if the best pot for your bread (taller pots are better than wider ones, for nice fluffy bread) has a plastic handle, you can usually just unscrew it. And if your pot has a glass lid, do as I do in my little Hawaii vacation kitchenette and just use a sheet pan for a lid instead.
Makes one 1 ½ lb loaf
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (sometimes labeled “high gluten flour”), plus more for dusting (430 grams)
¼ teaspoon instant or active dry yeast (it doesn’t matter what kind of yeast you use) (1 gram)
2 ½ teaspoons sea salt—if you have very coarse sea salt, grind it up a bit.
cornmeal or wheat bran as needed, optional—I almost always just use more flour.
- In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups (345 grams) tepid water (err on the side of cold, for a slower rise and better flavor)—just enough to make the dough slightly too wet to handle) and stir until blended; dough will be sticky and shaggy. (At this point flavorings such as caraway seeds, chopped olives, onions, walnuts, raisins, etc can be added.) Cover bowl with plastic wrap (I use an unused shower cap). Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, (as much as 20-22 is OK) at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
- The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice (realistically, this shaggy mass will not do anything like folding over on itself. Just do your best, it’ll be fine). Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to itself or your fingers (it will still stick), gently and quickly shape dough into a ball (or something loosely resembling one). Dust the bowl with flour and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.
- Let rise for about 1-3 hours, depending on outside temperature (if it’s cold outside, it will take longer to rise). When it is ready, the dough will be about double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger. (The dough will not really look like a ball, just a mass. This is OK.)
- At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees (up to 500 is OK for faster browning, but be careful). Put a 3-5 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats.
- When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Carefully turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. 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 15-30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Adapted 12/2007 from the NYT November 8, 2006, which was adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery.
variations – replace some of the all-purpose or bread flour with no more than:
30% whole wheat flour OR
50% white whole wheat flour OR
20% rye flour (1/2 c rye flour and 1 1/2 Tb. of caraway seeds is great)