Sunday, February 13, 2011

no knead bread

Behold, the greatest revolution in bread since the beginning of time. Well perhaps I'm over-stating it, but I can't emphasize enough how much in love I am with this recipe, this process, and the incredible result.

I give you (or rather, I show you while I eat) no knead bread. Thanks to Jim Lahey and the New York Times, this wonderfully simple process produces a satiating, crusty artisan bread with a chewy, substantial crumb. I'd like to see you try to squash this bread.

This was my first successful loaf. I had one dud before this because I totally botched the timing, and because I thought I would be lazy and use active dry yeast (oh the irony - once I got off my tail and bought the instant, I never have to proof again). To bake this bread successfully at home using a 1982 oven (or other less-than-professional variety), one needs a cast iron or ceramic dutch oven that can take up to 500 degrees. One also should invest in instant yeast. I love instant yeast. I ordered mine from amazon and keep it in one of those rubber sealed jars in the freezer.

If you want to see Jim Lahey in action, check out the video of him on Martha Stewart's show here. If you compare recipes, you might notice the variable amounts of water, timing, etc. The water is only slightly different, so no biggie there, and the timing of cooking really just depends on the oven it seems. I do 20 minutes covered and up to 20 minutes uncovered (checking at 15 minutes) which turns out a perfectly cooked loaf. I tried the 30 minutes covered and 15 minutes uncovered and it resulted in some burning. I think this process is subject to a little experimentation, and is somewhat forgiving.

What is not quite as forgiving is the resting and rising. Once you get this timing down, the rest is a cake walk. I am still positively giddy that I can do this at home so cheaply - and with practically no clean up. The bread doesn't stick to the pot, and all you do is wipe out the excess wheat bran and call it a day.
To make a whole wheat version, you use 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (I recommend King Arthur if you can't get a good organic brand), 1/2 tsp instant yeast, and the same amount of water. Keep all the rest the same and the result is even better than the white bread. This recipe is located in an old issue of MS Living and for some reason is not on her website. Go figure.
On and off, I bake this about once every two weeks. Ellybeth's post got me all inspired so I baked the whole wheat yesterday (yum) and I've got the white bread in the oven right now. Oh my lord the smell is wonderful. *update* I just pulled the bread out of the oven and remembered to tell you about my favorite part (other than the eating of course) - the crackling of the crust just after it comes out. For me it is a magical as rice krispies were at age 4.
So try it! Let me know how it turns out :)

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