I went to a get-together for neighborhood women this week and, within a few minutes of my walking in the door, someone shoved a piece of paper into my hand, insisting I use the email address she’d written there to send her the recipe for the pot-luck item I’d brought: No-Knead Bread.
I’d thought I was late to the game trying this bread so long after it had become a foodie media sensation, but, apparently, there are still people out there who aren’t privy to the wonders of no-knead bread. So I thought I’d share the recipe here.
As the title of the recipe might give away, this bread doesn’t need kneading, nor does it even take much work. What it needs is time… lots of time. That’s how it develops those lovely holes. The second secret is that it cooks in a pot — I used an enameled cast iron dutch oven — that’s been pre-heated with the oven. And it’s baked at 450 degrees F — no mean temperature — for nearly a full hour.
I can’t lay any claim to conceiving of the recipe, only to appreciating it. It first came to my attention, and to so many others’, when food writer Mark Bittman wrote about it in his New York Times column. He credited it to Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, originally founded in 1994 in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, and the recipe is still on the bakery’s web site.
I finally managed to try it a few weeks ago, and thought it the perfect item to take to the get-together. Honestly, there’s been nothing that’s honed my cooking/baking skills more than living in a fairly rural area. I can’t hop out the door and stroll down to the neighborhood bakery for crusty bread. If I want some — and I do, I do — I have to bake it myself. And you can, too.
Recipe: Crusty Artisan No-Knead Bread
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp yeast
- 1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature
- olive oil, for coating the dough
- cornmeal, wheat bran or extra flour
- Combine the three dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add the water and mix until it forms a spongy, sticky, shaggy dough.
- Cover it with plastic wrap and leave it to sit at room temperature for 18 hours. You can also move it to a second olive oil-coated bowl for the rise. I left it overnight, which wasn’t 18 hours, but it was enough. I knew it was done when I saw the dough had risen and was dotted with many many bubbly holes. This is the yeast doing its thing. This process will be faster at higher temperatures, and slower at lower ones.
- Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and fold it a couple of times. It will be sticky but, if your fingers are floured sufficiently, it shouldn’t stick too much. Cover again with the plastic wrap and let it sit for 15 minutes. If you’ve doubled the recipe, now is the time to divide it into two lumps of dough.
- Sprinkle the cornmeal or wheat bran onto a cotton — not terrycloth — towel. I used a cloth napkin with no problem. Then, dump the dough on top of that cornmeal, and sprinkle more cornmeal on top. this gives it some extra crunch. Cover with another towel and let it sit for another 2 hours to rise.
- About 1 1/2 hour into that rise, start pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees F. Put the lidded pot you’re cooking in — I used a enamel-covered cast iron dutch oven, and a Pyrex dish when I doubled the recipe — into the oven to pre-heat along with the oven.
- When the oven is pre-heated and the dough is ready, carefully remove the lid of the pot, and dump the dough inside. To do this, I pulled out the rack the pot was sitting on, so I could do this without actually taking the pot out of the oven. It may not look pretty at this point, but it will even out in the cooking. Put the lid back on, put the covered pot back into the oven, close it up, and let it bake for 30 minutes.
- After that 30 minutes, remove the lid from the pot and cook for 15 to 30 minutes, until the top is lovely and golden brown.
- Remove the pot from the oven, remove the bread from inside with a spatula or tongs, and let it cool on a rack. Wait 30 minutes before slicing — if you can!
Preparation time: 21 hours
Cooking time: 45 minutes to an hour