February 14, 2012

No Knead Bread

Winter has finally decided to drop in on us here in Toronto. And lately, all I want to do is knit and bake bread (and sleep, like Pepper, our cat, who truly gets what February is all about). So that's what I did this weekend. Plus I've wanted to share this bread recipe with you for some time. The no-knead bread craze has been going on for a few years, but I tend to be a bit slow with trends so I only caught on last year. If you haven't heard of it yet, watch out, because it may revolutionize your life as you know it.


I can't really think of many things more delightful than a loaf of bread, fresh out of the oven, with butter slathered all over it. That smell of baking bread must be as old as time. A smell smelled through the ages! To me it signifies home, comfort, safety, the soother of all woes. To tell you the truth, I've never been a huge bread person, but hot out of the oven, it's a sacred ritual and I always make sure to be hovering around if a new loaf is about to be born. Growing up, my stepdad would bake bread every Saturday. He'd have his favourite tunes cranked up to the max, a towel thrown over his shoulder, and he would do the weekly mop of the kitchen floor, and bake a batch of bread to last us the week. 


I've tried making various bread recipes over the years and never been particularly happy with the results. But this one sold me on the first try. More than one person has said to me "this is the BEST bread I've ever eaten in my life". And it's not me, it's the recipe. Seriously people. This is the shit. It's so easy you barely have to lift a finger. Get ready to blow your own socks off because what will come out of your oven is something of a calibre that you won't believe.



The recipe comes from New York baker Jim Lahey who owns Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. He came up with the recipe as a way to replicate, in a home oven, that crunchy on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside texture of wood-fired Italian bread. He says this recipe is so easy that even a 4-year old can make it. My roommate first heard about it  through a friend and borrowed his book My Bread from the library. She kept renewing it for months so it sat on our counter for a long time and we eventually all became converts. Basically, anyone who comes into contact with this recipe starts to pop out fresh loaves worthy of the finest boulangeries. And with that comes the inherent responsibility to share the secret with everyone you know, so beware because this recipe may turn you into a no-knead bread missionary.


The best part is you can't really mess it up. Even if you don't get it quite right, it will still probably be the best bread you've ever made. I like to use 2 parts unbleached wheat flour and 1 part spelt for my bread. Usually, I make a walnut & apricot bread loaf: my ultimate favourite (if you try this one, be sure to use the dark brown organic apricots, they are so much better! Just throw in about a cup of whole walnut halves and whole apricots). Next runner-up is rosemary olive bread (throw in a bunch of fresh rosemary and chopped kalamata olives)...  basically, if you're feeling inspired, get creative with your bread, throw in some fennel seed, caramelized onions, whatever strikes your fancy! For the sake of today's post, I just made a plain white batch using organic unbleached white flour. 


 


ONE VERY IMPORTANT TIP: As tempting as it may be to slice into your loaf right away, be sure to wait an hour before taking the first slice otherwise the bread will be gummy.


AND ONE MORE NOTE: Water amounts are a variable thing in bread, the exact amount depends on many things including the type of flour you're using, and also it's a matter of personal taste. I like a wet dough with this recipe but I find my loaves come out quite flat. Lately, I've been cutting down on the water a little and shaping the loaves with lots of flour to get them into a nice boule shape. But I like the texture of the flat loaves better. My roommate prefers the boules. We've been discussing this in great detail lately, and it's an endless process of tweaking and tasting and discussion…  the fun continues!

No-Knead Bread


3 cups flour (Jim Lahey recommends a minimum of 2 cups white unbleached flour for best results. The third can be spelt, whole wheat, rye, whatever you fancy, or just all white)
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup water

Roughly mix all ingredients together. The dough will be slightly more wet and sticky than regular bread dough. Cover and let sit between 12 to 24 hours. (I find the results are best at 24 hours, your dough will be nice and bubbly)

Pick up your dough and fold it over onto itself a few times. Put it back in the bowl. Cover and let sit for another 2 hours. 

Preheat oven to 450 F. Put a lidded dutch oven / cast iron pot in the oven for about 15 minutes to get it piping hot. Remove from the oven and sprinkle semolina or cornmeal in the pot to prevent the bread from sticking. Dump your mound of dough in there and swiftly put the cover back on.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid. Bake for another 15 minutes. Let the bread sit for an hour before cutting into it.  That's it, that's all!



Oh, and happy Valentine's Day everyone!

18 comments:

  1. Lovely! I know this tastes delicious because I have had your no knead bread..yum....Pepper is a perfect addition to your video :)

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  2. my favorite video so far, though i'll admit to being biased to the furry creatures. pepper is a star!

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  3. Pepper is a big hit in this one, I'll have to see what her shooting schedule and other engagements looks like for the rest of the month, if we're lucky she might possibly have time to make a cameo in the next video.

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  4. J'adore, ça me donne vraiment envie de venir prendre le déjeuner avec toi!
    Houda

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  5. Houda, la prochaine fois qu'on se voit je te fais ce pain et on déjeune ensemble! xoxo

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  6. This is brilliant - having huge success, will never be without a loaf again!

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  7. I love this bread...and I love the video with lazy kitty! Walnuts and Thompson raisins are my favourite additions, but you can't beat it just as it is...

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  8. Can i use unbleached bread flour for the white portion of the flour? (im using 1 cup for wheat flour as well) Or should i just use all purpose flour for the two cups?

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    1. Yes, unbleached is ideal! And 1 cup whole wheat will work well, I've even done 100% whole wheat and 100% spelt bread with this recipe and it still works well, just have to let it rise for the full 24 hours if using all wheat, and let it do its second rise for a good 2 hours or more. Enjoy!

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  9. When you 'cover' during the 24h proof, do you mean air-tight? i'm psyched to try no knead versions!

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    1. Hi there, no it doesn't have to be airtight, I usually cover mine with the lid of a pot, or a large plate, or a piece of plastic wrap. Have fun making it, let me know how it turns out! (Don't forget to let your bread rest for minimum 1 hour after it comes out of the oven)

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  10. YUM, I finally made some of this and am having trouble not eating the whole loaf. I messed up a few things and it still turned out great! In case you are a kitchen space cadet, too, here are my mistakes that still led to *amazing* bread:

    1. I didn't mix the dry ingredients together at all before adding the water, which made me feel a little stressed out. Didn't matter, 24 hours later, I had bubbly dough just like in the video.

    2. I left the dough for the second rise for closer to 6 or 7 hours than 2 and I didn't flour it enough, so it was super wet and sticky and I had to collapse the whole mess just to get it out of the bowl. I folded it a few more times, floured it generously, and let it rest for 30 minutes, after which time, it still looked sort of small and pathetic - didn't matter! Still rose substantially in the oven into a delightful boule.

    3. I had no cornmeal or semolina on hand, so I just used a little white flour, which probably wasn't even necessary. I think the preheating makes a crust on the bottom so fast that it wouldn't have stuck and would still have had a nice texture anyway.

    4. I dumped my little sad looking ball into my hot dutch oven in such a hurry that it kind of squished up against the side of the pot, but it was too hot and the dough was too soft for me to mess around with, so I just let it slide - I uncovered the pot after the initial 30 minute bake time and the loaf was perfectly round and no longer slouching against the side of the pot.

    In conclusion, this may be even more foolproof than it initially appears. Thanks, Aube! Although I sort of miss kneading:)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your bread-making adventures Carmen! Like you, I have made many many variations of this bread that have deviated pretty far from the original instructions and sure enough, each time, I'm shocked to see it come out of the oven all lovely and rustic and delicious. I've taken a little break from gluten this month, but I can't wait to sink my teeth into a loaf in about 2 weeks time. Thanks for visiting, happy bread-making :-)

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  11. Happy! This video brought a huge smile on my face and I can't wait to give the recipe a go!

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  12. I know this post is over a year old but just wanted to shard how much I really enjoyed watching your video. =) I love that you use your hands to mix it with. How can you get to know the dough - and if it's "right" - if you aren't intimate with it? I actually know people who are squeamish about using their hands in the kitchen! Which just makes me sad. I also love your dutch oven, which looks exactly like mine. Not the outside color (mine is red) but because neither yours nor mine look like they just came off of the showroom shelf. It is exactly what dishes in a real kitchens look like. The Pepper watching was a treat too! I've been making this kind of bread for three or four years now and it never gets old, if we're having soup or a salad this is almost guaranteed to be an accompaniment.

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    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment Nichole - yes I think using one's hands is key to cooking (and so much more fun) - the no knead recipe was really a life-changer for me, I only very very rarely made bread before that and now I make it all the time. Glad you enjoyed the video and thanks for stopping by! :-)

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  13. I'm so excited to have found your video blog! I found it through searching for no-knead bread. I love this video and your style. I also have a food video blog. Anyway, I can't wait to try this recipe and later check out more of your work.

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