I know, I know, I’m late to the party. But my excuse is that I couldn’t find instant yeast in Argentina (and almost couldn’t find it in the US either, as Whole Foods was out for about a month! Shocking. And I thought America was the land of plenty). And I didn’t have a blog in 2006. So there. Anyway, I’m here now and ready to party.
I have to say that I’m a bit of a lazy bones when it comes to actually kneading dough, so I usually end up using my bread machine. But in this case, you don’t have to knead the bread, so that’s a bonus. The only thing is this recipe requires foresight, something I’m, ahem, working on. Hey, I don’t like to be tied down, okay? And I’m sort of fond of instant gratification, which, I’m discovering, is not really possible when things like yeast are involved.
And another thing: while this may be a no-knead bread recipe, it’s not a you-really-don’t-have-to-do-anything recipe. Because you do. There’s some manhandling of dough going on, as well as flouring of things and general waiting/rising periods. So, it’s not like you don’t have to be around for a decent chunk of time. But seeing as how I attempted this just after a major snowstorm (aka Snowmaggedon) hit the East coast, I was pretty much homebound anyway. And there’s really nothing like the smell of baking bread.
But just so you know, I’ve revised the name of this bread to “Jim Lahey’s No-Knead-But-Some-Work Bread.”
All kvetching aside, this bread is pretty f@#cking amazing (excuse my ampersand, but I just can’t come up with another word that encapsulates my awe). The outside is super crunchy and the inside is light, almost smooth or slippery in texture. I can’t even really describe it, but I will say it’s the best-textured bread I’ve ever made. And now that I’ve done it, I can see myself making this bread all. the. time. (or at least every 20+ hours or so).
OK, really now. Let’s DO this (Leroy Jenkins)!
NOTE: The dough was really sticky for me, so I had to use a lot more flour for the dusting and folding part than the recipe calls for (which is “a little”). And it was really gooey. I’m not sure if that’s because I used whole wheat flour or I didn’t wait the full 18 hours, but the bread still came out okay. It was just really messy (see: aforementioned name change).
Jim Lahey’s No-Knead-But-Some-Work Bread
from the NY Times
Makes one 1½-pound loaf
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (I used whole-wheat bread flour)
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran (if you’re not using flour for the towel-dusting)
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water (which doesn’t have to be warm, btw), and stir until blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest somewhere warm for a minimum of 12, but preferably more like 18 hours (it should be around 70ºF or so, like a corner of your kitchen counter vs. the window sill in our bedroom which has actual ice and snow encrusted on it ON THE INSIDE. Did I mention it’s 85º in Buenos Aires right now?). It’s ready when the surface is pockmarked with bubbles. In my case, I made the dough at 5:00 pm and moved onto the next step at about 9:30 the next morning, so that’s 16.5 hours.
Scoop the dough out of the bowl and onto a floured board; sprinkle the dough with more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
Using flour to prevent sticking, shape the dough into a ball (mine was more like a blob than an actual ball). Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal, making sure to make a bigger circle than what you’re starting out with because it’s going to spread out. Put the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger (i.e., the hole will stay there for a bit).
At least a half-hour before the dough is ready, heat your oven to 450ºF/232ºC and put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic all work) in the oven as it heats up. [Note: I used a Le Creuset enamel pan and was out walking the dog and forgot, so I only heated the pan for about 10 minutes. Again, not an issue.]
When dough is ready, remove the pot from oven and be careful because that sucker is hot (even with only 10 minutes of preheating). Slide your hand under towel and flip the dough over into pot, seam side up (I didn’t really have a seam; as I mentioned before, mine was more of a blob than a ball). If needed, shake the pan a bit to settle the dough evenly into the pan; it will straighten out as it bakes.
Bake 30 minutes covered, then remove the lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until your loaf is beautifully browned (mine only needed 15 minutes).
Slide out of the pan onto a rack and let it cool a bit before devouring.