No-Knead Bread #3

Epicurious No-knead Bread

This is the third no-knead bread recipe I’ve tried in the last two months, and I have to say:  OH, MY!  The bottom crust is a little hard (rather than chewy) but the taste is marvelous, and the texture is perfection itself.  I started this last night, so it could ferment for 12 hours;  then there was a second rise of two hours before dumping it into the super-heated Le Creuset pan.  Apart from the all time spent waiting around (impatient, moi?) it’s a very easy recipe if you can resist the temptation to knead and/or overwork the dough.   Four ingredients, time, and an oven… and the result is a perfect boule.

 

Adapted from Jim Lahey as posted on epicurious.com:  Here’s my basic no-knead, long-fermented rustic bread, a round loaf, or boule. It’s an adaptation for the home kitchen of the much larger oval filone and the football-shaped pugliese sold at the Sullivan Street Bakery. I suggest you try this before any of the variations in Chapter Three, to get the hang of it. Even if you’ve baked before, the process is probably nothing like what your experience would lead you to expect. For one thing, many people who bake this bread find the dough to be unusually wet. Remember that most of the water is meant to be released as steam in the covered pot, and you’ll be handling the dough very little anyway.

Don’t feel too uptight about any of this. For example, I specify that the dough should rise at room temperature, about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. (In many of the recipes, I say to put the dough in a warm, draft-free spot—same thing.) But if that’s not what you have at the moment, you’ll be okay anyway. Just pay attention to the visual cues: At the end of the first rise, the dough is properly fermented when it has developed a darkened appearance and bubbles, and long, thread-like strands cling to the bowl when it’s moved. After the second, briefer, rise, the loaf has risen sufficiently if it holds the impression of your fingertip when you poke it lightly, making an indentation about 1/4 inch deep. It should hold that impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Note: All measurements are in grams, even for liquids, because precision and proportions count when you’re making bread or anything yeasted.  Use an electronic scale that gives weights in both grams and ounces.

Ingredients:

400g (3 cups) bread flour blend
8g (2 tsp) Kosher salt
1g (w tsp) instant or rapid-rise yeast
300g (1 1/3 cups) water at room temperature
Additional flour for dusting
Butter or oil spray such as Pam for greasing the bowls/pans

4.5 to 5.5 quart heavy lidded pot, such as a small Le Creuset pan

Method:

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast.  Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds.  Make sure it’s really sticky to the touch;  if it’s not, mix in another tablespoon or two of water.  Cover the bowl with a plate, tea towel, or plastic wrap (sprayed with Pam or oil);  let sit at room temperature (about 72 degrees F), out of direct sunlight, until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size.  This will take a minimum of 12 hours and (my preference) up to 18 hours. This slow rise—fermentation—is the key to flavor.

When the first fermentation is complete, generously dust a work surface (a wooden or plastic cutting board is fine) with flour.  Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough onto the board in one piece.  When you begin to pull the dough away from the bowl, it will cling in long, thin strands (this is the developed gluten), and it will be quite loose and sticky—do not add more flour.  Use lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula to lift the edges of the dough in toward the center.  Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.

Place a cotton or linen tea towel (not terry cloth, which tends to stick and may leave lint in the dough) or a large cloth napkin on your work surface and generously dust the cloth with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour.  Use your hands or a bowl scraper or wooden spatula to gently lift the dough onto the towel, so it is seam side down.  If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour.  Fold the ends of the towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours.  The dough is ready when it is almost doubled.  If you gently poke it with your finger, making an indentation about 1/4 inch deep, it should hold the impression.  If it doesn’t, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third position, and place a covered 4.5–5.5 quart heavy pot with oven-safe lid in the center of the rack.  [I leave my heavy-duty pizza stone on the bottom shelf, to retain the heat.]

Using pot holders or oven gloves, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it.  Unfold the tea towel, lightly dust the dough with flour or bran, lift up the dough, either on the towel or in your hand, and quickly but gently invert it into the pot, seam side up.  (Use caution—the pot will be very hot.)  Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more.  Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly.  [If you tap the bottom of the loaf, it should sound hollow.]  Don’t slice or tear into it until it has cooled, which usually takes at least an hour.

When completely cooled, bread can be frozen in a ziplok bag;  otherwise, keep in a loose plastic bag at room temperature.  Mind you, in my experience this bread gets eaten up so quickly that storage is not a problem!

Here is the printable file for Epicurious No-knead Bread.

And here is a link to Jim Lahey’s book:  https://www.amazon.com/My-Bread-Revolutionary-No-Work-No-Knead/dp/0393066304

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