I MADE this!
What do you mean, you don’t believe me?
You don’t think I can make crunchy-crusted, gorgeously air-pocketed, chewy, delicious, amazing, life-changing bread? Here’s proof that I did!
Can I even tell you how badass I feel? This bread is PROFESSIONAL, people! It makes you smile. It makes you laugh. It makes you do the happy dance and want to eat half a loaf for dinner.
The good news is that it’s really easy. Totally messy, but really, really easy.
No-knead bread is, from what I gather, something of a phenomenon. Instead of kneading, you just let it rise FOREVER, and instead of baking the regular way, you bake in a dutch oven to create a humid, perfect-crust-forming environment. Apparently, the NY Times posted a recipe originally created by Jim Lahey, and it just took off like a rocket from there. I heard about it from Smitten Kitchen, but I originally didn’t make it because 1) I don’t have a dutch oven, and 2) I wanted to make REAL bread the TRADITIONAL way (stupid Jenni). Later, after my friend Perknitious posted about it, and Aussie reminded me I have an old-fashioned roaster-thing (you know those blue speckled aluminum things that they only make as camping gear now?) that could work instead of a dutch oven, I decided to give it a go.
Oh, MAN, am I glad I did!!
No-Knead Bread, adapted from Smitten Kitchen‘s adaptation
The original recipe calls for instant yeast, but I only had active dry. Halfway into this experiment, I remembered that this is NOT the same thing, and I was supposed to use 25% more active dry to compensate. However, I remembered reading somewhere that you can use more yeast OR more rising time to achieve the same results in bread baking, so I decided to give it a little more time — and, furthermore, 25% of 1/4 tsp is, for all intents and purposes, nothing, right?
I substituted bread flour for all-purpose, since I had it, and I baked in a container MUCH smaller than 6-8 quarts… probably half that. I had seen in SK’s comments that some people wished they used a smaller dutch oven than called for to get a thicker bread, so I figured it would work out just fine.
In my experience, this dough was HARD to handle. SK makes it sound like you can actually work with the dough, but mine just didn’t cooperate. It didn’t retain it’s shape and it stuck to EVERYTHING. I thought I had killed it, but no. It was fine. Dough doesn’t have to be pretty to work.
3 cups bread flour plus some for dusting (can sub all-purpose. Can use cormeal, bran, etc for dusting)
1/4 tsp active dry yeast (again, it “should” have been 25% more, but who cares)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 5/8 c warm water
Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap (I topped with a tea towel on top of that to be safe) and let rest 18 hours in a 70F-ish room (SK says 12-18 hours works, but I’ve heard up to 22 is ok). When the dough is ready, the surface will be dotted with bubbles.
Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. (I, uh, missed this step). Sprinkle with a little more flour, fold over on itself once or twice, cover with plastic wrap and let rest 15 mins.
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 tea towel with flour, put dough seam side down (mine had no seam) on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours (coat GENEROUSLY, but still be prepared for major stickage!). When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger. Mine spread out in a giant blob. It was fine.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450°F. Put a heavy covered pot (something like a dutch oven, recommended 6-8 qts, but mine was probably more like 4 qts) in the oven as it heats. When dough is ready, remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under the towel and gently flip dough into the pot, seam-side up (mine had no seam). Shake once or twice to distribute it more evenly, but it will probably still look messy, which is ok. 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 ok. Bake with lid on for 30 mins, then remove lid and bake another 15-30 mins (mine took 15).
Cool on a rack. Marvel at the tiny cracking noises it eats as it cools. Please PLEASE try some warm!!