Sunday, January 30, 2011

No-Knead Bread

No-Knead Bread
OK. So I'm behind  "The Times". Back in 2006, The Minimalist (NY Times Food Columnist Mark Bittman) wrote about a a simple  no-knead bread making process refined by Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan street Bakery in Manhattan.. The piece turned out to be one of his most talked about and widely distributed. I "discovered"  it last week in the Minimalists final column highlighting his favorite 25 recipes. All I can say is try it. You'll be glad you did.

It's easy - you mix together some instant yeast, flour, salt and some water to form a wet, "shaggy" dough. You cover this tightly and let it sit for 12 to 18 hours. Dump the dough, shape into a ball, let it rise a little longer. Preheat an oven and a cast-iron pot, dump your wobbly dough into the hot pot and let it bake in the oven, first covered, then uncovered until you have a golden, hollow-when-thumped, crackling loaf. It crackles  like Rice Crispies does when you add milk to your bowl!  This bread crackles while it cools!

It's hard to imagine that so little effort could produce such tasty, textured bakery quality bread at home!

No-Knead Bread
Yields one 1 1/2 pound loaf

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 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  minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

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