Saturday, January 31, 2009

is there a knead?

No Knead Bread

Who doesn't love the smell of homemade bread. I'm sure we all have memories, or at least I hope we all do, of that delicious fresh bread smell slowly creeping through the house. My mother made a lot of fresh bread, mind you it wasn't any of todays' artisan loafs or even heart healthy whole grain, but I don't think these were very popular for the home baker in the 70's and 80's. There was nothing like coming home from school and cutting a warm slice, or two, or three and smothering them with butter. Pure heaven. Who needs a condiment other than butter when you have fresh, warm bread.

Fast forward a few decades. As a grown man, and a passionate baker, I was somehow always intimidated by bread. Muffins, cakes, cookies, squares, you name it and I'll whip it up...but bread. I always wondered - will it rise properly, look good, taste good, cut easily...oh damn it, I'm just going to go buy that loaf I saw at the store. On top of everything else white bread was almost becoming faux pas; with all the 'healthy' whole grain, squirrelly breads available, why would I make simple plain white bread.

Why, because I still enjoy the taste of a warm, soft flour bread. Especially if I can put it all together and have a "sourish" rustic loaf with minimal effort. This is where the No Knead Bread really shines. If there was ever a bread recipe to take a crack at; it would be this one. Almost over night, people were professing their love for this bread. Light and airy with a great crust, one that even sings to you while it cools on your rack. What more could you ask for. Mark Bittman even mentioned that Jim Lahey's method for minimalist bread baking may be the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I make this bread, or a version of it around 4 days a week. Simple to put together the night before - Mix 3 cups of flour, 3/4 tablespoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast, and roughly 1 1/2 cups of water until 'shaggy'. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit out on the counter, or coffee table, or somewhere else warm and let the slow magic happen. 12-20 hours later, take the pillowy (now risen) dough and give it a quick fold or two before putting it back in a floured cloth bowl for 2 hours. When you have passed the 1 1/2 hour mark, turn your oven on to 450 degrees and preheat with a dutch over or covered pot inside. After the final 1/2 hour, carefully pull the pot from the oven, sprinkle in some cornmeal and turn your dough in the pot. Bake covered for 30 mins, then uncovered for another 15-20. Remove the now delicious and toasty looking loaf from the oven, cool for an hour - Enjoy!

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