If you enjoyed my last post about German breads and would like to try baking bread yourself, why not start with this easy no-knead bread recipe? I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of baking my own bread, I thought this was too deep of a subject for dabbling, and only a serious baker could produce something with the crunchy crust and chewy, elastic interior of a nice loaf of bread. Also, working with yeast can be tricky and if the temperatures aren’t carefully controlled the yeast will either be killed by too warm a temperature or fail to bubble at all if the temperature is too low. The fact is, this recipe is so easy even a child could make it. No sticky dough covered hands, no need for precisely measured ingredients, and best of all – no back-breaking kneading (though I should point out that kneading dough is a great stress reliever, and builds your chef muscles!) You need only one bowl, 4 ingredients, a few stirs with a wooden spoon, and patience to watch it rise.
Most recipes call for the dough to rise 12-14 hours, or even overnight. This recipe was originally created by Jim Lahey, founder of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City, and calls for leaving it to rise overnight. Jim Lahey technique simply relies on yeast fermentation instead of the usual stretching and punching of dough. Handle the dough gently as overworking it will bust the gas bubbles. This technique alone makes it possible for amateur cooks to make store-quality loaves, crust and crumb with little fuss. Mark Bittman of the New York Times adapted it, cutting the rising time down to 12 hours, but I’ve found that you can reduce the rising time down to 3-4 hours and still produce a great loaf, although the longer you let it rise, the more tangy sourdough flavor it will develop.
Of course you could just as easily hop in your car and head to your local bakery to pick up a loaf but have you ever experienced the joy of freshly baked bread coming out of your very own oven? The smell will have you standing impatiently in front of your oven waiting for the timer to go off. The crunchy sound of the golden crust as you slice the first piece and the steaming interior will have you taking the first bite without butter or jam, and and the taste makes it hard to resist eating a second slice.
This recipe is a cross between a rustic country bread and a sourdough. The interior has a chewy and spongy texture with large holes and pillow-like interior is perfect. Add a swipe of salted butter and you are transported to a rustic country bakery. Sound too good to be true? Try it… and you’ll see.
makes 1 loaf
3 cups bread flour (In Germany choose 550 or white all purpose flour will do as well)
3/4 teaspoon yeast (I used instant but you can certainly use fresh)
1-1/4 teaspoon himalayan or sea salt
1-1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees | 232 celsius
Add flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of warm water (between lukewarm and hot, 90-100f or 32-38c, be careful: too hot or too cool and the yeast won’t work) and mix. This should take about 3 minutes and leave you with a thick, goopy dough. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and leave it in the warmest spot in your house (It doesn’t necessarily need to be your kitchen). Let it sit for 3-4 hours until dough has doubled in size.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and sprinkle flour on it. Knead two or three times to form it into a ball. Coat with a teaspoon of olive oil to prevent sticking, and place back into the bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes covered.
Pre-heat oven to 450°F. Place a dutch oven (cast iron, steel, enamelware, Pyrex or ceramic) with the lid on in the oven and allow to heat up for 15 minutes. Uncover the dough just before placing it carefully into the heated pot. You will hear a sizzle, this forms a crust on the bottom of the loaf. Cover the pot with a lid and bake undisturbed for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes until it’s beautifully browned on top. Remove pot from oven and carefully shake to loosen the loaf before tipping it out onto the counter, then cool on a wire rack.