For some reason a lot of my friends and the folks I interact with online (via Twitter) have been talking a lot about baking bread. Baking bread does not have to be difficult. I have two great recipes, both from Cook’s Illustrated, and both absolutely delicious.
I will publish “bread” posts for the next two Fridays. The first recipe is for an “almost no-knead” bread. The key for this bread is two-fold: first, a non-reactive bowl (I use glass or ceramic) when rising; second, a warm location for the rising (if your kitchen is cool overnight expect to add a few more hours onto the rising time in the morning).
The second recipe (to be published on the 6th of February) will be for a traditional bread (yes, you knead the dough) – but I shortcut it and use the bread machine for the kneading. I suppose you could use the bread machine for the whole thing, but I like baking the bread in my oven.
Almost No-Knead Bread
Originally published January 1, 2008 in Cook’s Illustrated.
Makes 1 large round loaf. I use a Le Creuset cast iron covered large pot (also called a Dutch oven) for baking. It works perfectly. I think you can use any heavy pot that is oven safe and with a lid.
Use a mild lager (we have used Becks, Fosters, and Bud) – I am sure a non-alcoholic lager would also work.
This doesn’t last long when I bake it. But to store it I always put bread in a paper bag and then our bread box.
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (3 ounces)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours. I find in my kitchen which is fairly cool that I need to leave this for about 12 to 15 hours. I often leave the bread overnight to rise, as long as it is covered to protect moisture this is not a problem.
2. Lay parchment paper inside big bowl (I use ceramic or glass – non reactive) and spray with nonstick cooking spray (I have an olive oil mister so I use that, as I do not like cooking sprays). Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times (thus the almost no knead name of the recipe). Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray (again, I use olive oil). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours. Again, as my kitchen is cool sometimes I find this step can take 4 hours. So if you are wanting fresh bread for breakfast, wake up early, do this step, then go back for a little extra sleep.
3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place heavy-bottomed pot (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees (about 250C) – heat the oven with the pot in it. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment paper and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees (about 200C) and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown about 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. I can rarely wait until the loaf is fully cooled, and tend to eat it warm. They say this is not great for bread texture and means that it doesn’t keep as long, but in all honesty this bread does not last long when made in our house.
I find this bread is best made by starting in the evening, around 6pm, then doing step two around 9am, then baking at noon. It is out of the oven at about 1pm, and we often eat it with a lunchtime soup or roast on Sundays (if we start the process on Saturday it is perfect with Sunday supper).
I look forward to adding any photos you mail!
Update March 2013: We moved to gluten free eating at home in March 2012, and this is one of the recipes I miss most. I still have the chance to make it for family on weekends and holidays. It is a loaf much loved.