I admit to being a little slow on the uptake as there has been buzz in the electronic world about No Knead Bread for some time now.
Several months ago, my great pal from Halifax got on my case demanding that I make this fabulous bread. I think the message was even delivered with FABULOUS in capitals. I was sent the recipe, but at the time, I was in no mood to bake bread. She sent this recipe on the heels of another for a healthy pancake made with oats and egg whites, and when I sent her a picture of the final product (in the spirit of the Canadian Finals Rodeo, visualize dried cow poo), she realized she gave me some wrong measures. It was good for a laugh, but I wasn’t ready to take any risks with a loaf of bread. So I stuck the message on the cork board of my mind for future reference.
To me, bread making gives me two visuals. The first is of my Baba Lewicki, in a tiny, perfectly clean kitchen, kitchen towels neatly laid out, tins of dough rising, me sitting at the table in a beam of morning sunshine, and the delicious warm smell of dough and fresh baked bread. Happiness. The second image is me, in an old apartment kitchen covered in a dusting of flour, the room hot, me kneading, kneading, kneading, not sure what “silky smooth” means, sweating, cursing, then anxiously waiting for the dough to rise, only to punch the living daylights out of it, and finally, turning out hard bricks of baked dough from the Barbie sized oven. Frustration.
Although the final products were deemed edible and tasty by my Michael, I could not ignore his pained smile and the five minutes it took him to chew, then swallow the bread. I have never felt successful with bread making, and I haven’t had the tenacity to keep trying.
Over a decade ago I was given a bread maker as a gift. It did all the work for me. The bread? Not so bad. Pretty darn good actually. But I didn’t like the shape, nor did I like the mixer doo-dad baking a little bread anus in my loaves of bread. It just wasn’t right.
Fast forward to the present day, and we have a ingenious baker out in New York named Jim Lahey, who created the No Knead Bread.
In 2006 The New York Times published a recipe for No Knead Bread from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. I thought I’d give it a whirl. For added confidence, I also watched the video of Jim Lahey with Martha Stewart. If you watch the video, I hope you get the same amusement as I do watching Martha trying to make it more complicated by giving it an extra fold here, an extra pat there, etc. etc. In part two of the video, I also get some pleasure watching Jim Lahey boss Martha. Oh yes, the fun in the Walsh house never ends.
There is indeed no kneading with this recipe. I was wary that somewhere I would catch them out and I would need to knead. But you don’t. You need time. 18 to 20 hours of time. The mantra seems to be, “let the dough do the work for you”. Without further delay:
Baking the Perfect Loaf of Bread at Home
3 cups (430g) flour
1½ cups (345g or 12oz) water
¼ teaspoon (1g) yeast (Cathy here: You need to use Rapid, Instant or Quick Rise Yeast)
1¼ teaspoon (8g) salt
olive oil (for coating)
extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal (for dusting)
Two medium mixing bowls
6 to 8 quart pot with lid (Pyrex glass, Le Creuset cast iron, or ceramic)
Wooden Spoon or spatula (optional)
Two or three cotton dish towels (not terrycloth)
Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add water and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lightly coat the inside of a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65-72°F).
Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface. Next, shape the dough into ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450-500°F. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes Then remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.
I’m back. So now you have the official recipe above, and following are photos I took of the process here in my kitchen:
If you will notice, Lahey’s appears burnt, and mine follows suit. I will adjust cooking time or temperature next time around.
And…. here’s the moment I’ve been waiting for. I present to you, No Knead Bread:
It works! It really does. The texture is not too fluffy, not too dense, the crust is nice and won’t shred the roof of your mouth, but still has a nice crispness to it. There aren’t huge holes to lose your butter or jam through. It tastes absolutely delicious.
I am sorry I didn’t try this sooner, and can’t wait for another weekend where I just relax, stay in and bake bread.
As the wisdom of Twitter says, bread baking can bring peace and joy. Amen to that indeed!