I swear, every time I open the door…it smells EXACTLY like the downstairs should be full of delicious brick oven-baked pizzas. Alas, it is not…but I do have this!
I figured I had no reason at all to not try to make my own bread. I definitely have the time for homemade bread! I’d only ever made bread with a bread machine before, though, so where to start? I obviously wanted to do something as simple as possible, and the no-knead bread recipe that (I think) had been printed in the NY Times, oh, a couple of years ago or so seemed like a pretty easy option. The only thing I had to buy was the yeast, and I bought a little canister of it as opposed to a packet so I can make more than one or two loaves of bread.
This bread is DELICIOUS. Super crusty on the outside and really soft and almost gummy (but in the good bread way) on the inside. The only thing that went even remotely wrong was that I way overfloured EVERYTHING, not sure of just how much extra flour I needed. Um, not that I used too much flour in the bread, just on the counter…the towel…the surface of the bread…you can kind of see. The problem with too much flour is that, aside from getting everywhere, any extra flour in the bottom of the cooking vessel will burn. Burnt flour doesn’t smell very good, and will make you worry that you ruined the bread. It will also burn to the bottom of the bread, creating a blackened crust that can’t really be cut through…you kind of have to break the bottom crust once you cut through the rest of the bread. Also, it doesn’t taste that awesome…not bad, just clearly a little burned. So, lesson learned there.
Despite my overzealous flouring, the rest of the bread was not affected and we enjoyed steaming hot slabs of it fresh from the oven (of course buttered). I still have a ton of it left and plan to have some for breakfast tomorrow…maybe heated slightly with some jam. It would also go fantastically with a nice chunky winter soup or stew, or as part of a more rustic-themed spread for a cheese-and-wine-type gathering or picnic. But especially with soup or stew, because something with a crust that shattery needs something yummy to soak up. Now the leftover minestrone in the freezer is calling to me…not to be eaten now, as it’s 2 in the morning and I’m still full from dinner (recipe coming tomorrow-ish, and is the second part of the pizza-esque aroma). But maybe tomorrow…oh, but I have that squash I wanted to incorporate into a risotto…hmm. Eventually.
Anyway, if you’ve never made bread before, I definitely recommend giving this a try. Pretty much every food blogger already did long before I got to it. I’m excited to try other yeasty-type recipes in order to get through that whole canister of yeast, but I’m sure I’ll be making this again. Especially when I know I’ll be making some soup.
No Knead Bread
3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting (you can use AP flour if you must)
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt (I used fine sea salt)
1 5/8 cups water
Cornmeal, wheat bran, oat bran, etc., for dusting (optional…I just used the flour)
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add water and stir until blended – dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place (about 70 degrees) for 12-18 hours (18 is better). Once the surface of the dough is dotted with little holes, lightly flour a clean work surface and place the dough on it. Lightly sprinkle the dough with more flour and fold it over itself once or twice, then cover it loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for another 15 minutes. Liberally coat a clean dish towel (not terrycloth) with your choice of dusting material. Coat your hands with a light layer of flour (to prevent sticking) and, working quickly, gently form a ball from the dough. Place the dough seam side down on the cloth, dust with more flour or bran or whatever, then cover with another cloth and let rise for 2 hours.
Half an hour before the dough is ready, place a covered 6-8 quart heavy pot or casserole dish in the oven and turn the oven on to 450. Once the dough is ready (about doubled in size and no longer springy when you poke it), carefully remove the cooking vessel from the oven and quickly flip the dough into it, seam side up (shake the pan slightly if the dough is really uneven). Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes, or until the crust is browned. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool slightly before devouring.
Not so hard! I think I might like traditional bread-baking, too, since I like to squish foodstuffs around with my hands. Kneading could be lots of fun!