Don’t let the name fool you – just because it’s no-knead doesn’t mean it’s no-muss and no-fuss. In fact, this bread was more difficult than kneaded breads, simply because kneaded breads don’t stick to your fingers like glue. BUT. Here’s why I love this bread more than kneaded breads – it cooks in a Dutch oven and turns out crunchy and crisped on the outside, with soft dough bubbles on the inside. Just like a nice bread you’d get at the bakery.
I covered mine in toasted wheat bran for extra flavor and nutrition, but the bran was kind of a mess in the kitchen and looks funny on the bread. However, it did offer a nice toasty taste on the crust.
I first had this bread at my friend Jennifer’s house, where she was cooking a gourmet meal for the ladies in her book club (they had just read “Heat” by Bill Buford, which I recommended to Jennifer). In addition to the homemade pumpkin pasta and lots of appetizers, she served this beautiful loaf of bread that I couldn’t believe didn’t come from an Italian bakery. Way to go, Jennifer!
She sent me the recipe the next day, from The Minimalist, of course:
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
- ¼ teaspoon instant yeast (at my store, it’s called extra-active dry yeast)
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- Wheat brand, as needed (or flour)
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups (about 13 oz.) 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. (WriteGal note: this was a huge, sticky mess for me.) 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. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. 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. (WriteGal note: make sure you don’t fold in any of the wheat bran because it will form a seam in the loaf that is unsightly – like an extra crust running through it). 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.
As soon as mine came out of the oven, we cut it thick, then placed ripe tomato slices on top, seasoned with salt and pepper. It was a perfect snack to enjoy a warm afternoon, along with Manchego cheese and a cold Modelo beer.
Enjoy, friends! xoxo