Sunday, February 17, 2008

Old news

Ages ago, way back in November of 2006, the New York Times published a recipe for no knead bread. I looked at it, filed it as something I'd really like to try and basically forgot about it for a long time. But almost every time I went over to my neighbor's house she seemed to have a few loaves of the stuff in various stages of completion so I finally caved and gave it a try. Two tries actually. The first time I tried a more local version by replacing a cup of flour with a cup of local oat flour. The bread was good, not outstanding. I also thought it was a little low on salt so I added a bit more on my second try and stuck with bread flour. I also dropped the oven temperature by 25 degrees but that was due to a faulty memory more than anything but I found the crust texture to be a bit better at the slightly lower temperature.

Oh, and because I'm lazy, I combined steps two and three the second time I made it because it just didn't make sense to me to separate the two steps. It just made a mess and each time I messed with the dough more stuck to my hands; in other words, I was just being lazy but it didn't seem to matter.

No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (I used regular yeast instead of instant)
1¼ teaspoons salt (I upped it to 1 1/2)
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 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 (I used 425 and the crust was a little softer this way). Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats (I also put the lid in the oven the second time around although with all the other things I changed I don't know how much difference this made). 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 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Rating: Excellent in the way only fresh bread can be.

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