Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Do Nothing Bread

I'm into bread. Nothing beats pulling a hot loaf from the oven with your own two mitted hands. I love the concept of creating something so tasty and nutritious (Atkins- bah) from the simplest of ingredients-- flour, yeast, salt, water and, sometimes, sugar. Bread encapsulates the miracle of baking. The raw ingredients in your mixing bowl are completely transformed by the process of mixing, kneading, rising and baking. Although for this particular recipe, there's no need to knead. This is the easiest bread you can possibly bake, and, at the same time, the most sophisticated.

I found the recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. The ingredients are simple, the process is stupidly easy, and you wind up with a loaf of artisan bread. It's very exciting. No really, I was a little giddy when I cut my first piece. This loaf is for the beginning and experienced baker a like. Appropriately titled "No Work Bread," The dough does not require kneading. Instead, the yeast develops over a delayed fermentation period (18 hours). Baking the bread in a hot pot or corning wear creates a cracked artisan-style crust. The texture is open, with lots of those wonderful holes.

No-Knead Bread
Yields one 1 1/2 pound loaf
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. 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 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.


  1. I've been waiting for this.

  2. I just made the bread. It tasted awesome and was really easy. The only trick is to remember to chuck the ingredients together the night before you want to eat it for lunch. I used regular yeast instead of the quick yeast and it worked fine.