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No-Knead Bread. Really.


Start by mixing your flour, yeast, salt and water, and then letting the dough rest.

This bread is simple to make, and its ease goes beyond the fact that you don’t have to knead the dough. You really don’t have to do much of anything, but wait. The yeast does the work for you, as it ferments, according to Jim Lahey, who has popularized it and includes variations in his “My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method” (W.W. Norton and Co., $29.95).

Just be careful when dealing with the hot Dutch oven. It’s really hot.

The Basic No-Knead Bread Recipe

3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1/4 teaspoon instant or other active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups cool water (55 to 65 degrees)
Wheat bran, cornmeal or additional flour for dusting

Use a scraper to help remove the sticky dough from the bowl.

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 and let sit at room temperature (about 72 degrees), 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.

Shape the dough (round is probably better than my square shape, but it baked anyway).

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 with a rack in the lower third position and place a covered 4 1/2- to 5-quart heavy pot in the center of the rack.

Using pot holders, 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.

Wrap it in a tea towel and let it rest a second time.

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 or pot holders to lift the bread carefully out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly. Don’t slice or tear into it until it has cooled, which usually takes at least an hour.

Makes 1 loaf.

From My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method” by Jim Lahey with Rick Flaste

A rustic loaf fresh from the oven.

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Griffin to Go: The Upper Crust


No-knead Bread

Shortly after I moved to San Antonio, I gave up hope that I’d ever be able to find a loaf of bread with a truly dense crust. After all, the bread of this city is anything but hard. It’s the tortilla, and the best tortillas, handmade and oh-so-pliable, can’t be beat.

Still, I longed for a crust that was so thick I had to bite it with my side teeth, bread as rustic as I remember at my grandmother’s house in Germany. She didn’t make it herself. It came from a neighborhood bakery that produced the most beautiful rounds of rye I’ve ever seen or tasted.

Until a few years ago, I never really gave much thought to the idea of baking my own bread. I rarely eat it at home, so most of an entire loaf would likely go to waste. Yet several years ago, my friend, the late Mary Singleton, taught me the basics. She showed me how to knead the dough (and not overknead it) and to practice enough patience to let it rise several times before putting into the oven.

She also taught me how to add whole wheat to the mix, which would bolster the fiber count. I’m diabetic, so my daily bread, with all those carbohydrates, could literally be a killer. Added fiber is said to help cut down the effect of the carbs.

My only problem with her recipe was the crust was soft. I know plenty of people who remove the crusts from even Wonder Bread. I’m sort of the opposite. You can give me the crusts and keep the center.

Fast forward to early this year. Fellow food writer Ron Bechtol had a party in which he served up a loaf of just-made bread. It had the best crust imaginable, hard and chewy, plus a soft center without being spongy. It was no-knead bread, he said.

I had heard talk of this recipe ever since it ran in the New York Times a few years ago. But I had never tried it. So, when I saw Jim Lahey’s book, “My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method” (W.W. Norton & Company, $29.95), I decided to give it a shot.

(For those of you who have tried the version that ran in the Times, take note: Lahey, who opened the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City,  has revised his method somewhat. So, you may want to compare the two. The book version, for example, calls for a higher oven temperature.)

The dough needs to sit for about 20 hours total, plus an hour or so for baking, then the bread needs time to rest before cutting into it, so think about starting a day in advance.

No-knead Bread just out of the oven.

The dough goes together in a matter of seconds, as the recipe says. All I have to do is let it rise, or ferment, as Lahey calls it. There really is no kneading. If you want to use a wooden spoon instead of your hands, you can do that, though I prefer the tactile pleasure of getting my hands in the dough. (I also enjoy the kneading, which is therapeutic, but that creates a different bread.)

Then you wait. You wait 18 hours. Just when you’ve almost forgotten the dough, you have to remove it from its bowl, shape it and let it rest again for two more hours. (The recipe says you could do the first step after 12 hours and the second after one hour, but then Lahey says it’s better to wait a full 18 hours and then two hours more. Why argue with someone who knows what he’s doing?)

Toward the end of the second rise, you need to heat your oven to 475 degrees with a Dutch oven in it. (If you are using Le Creuset, which I don’t have, read Lahey’s instructions first so you don’t ruin the handle.) When the dough is ready, carefully remove the Dutch oven. I say carefully because the handle on mine was so hot that it burned through the silicone mitt I was using.

Then you place your dough in the scorching hot Dutch oven, cover it and bake for 30 minutes. After that, remove the lid and continue baking until the bread is done, about 15-30 more minutes.

That’s it. The hardest part of baking this bread was handling the Dutch oven.

  • The best was having bread so good I could eat half a loaf in one sitting — not something I should do on my diet, I know. Thankfully, friends have gladly welcomed halves of loaves, each time I’ve tried the recipe.

Now the fun begins. Add to the recipe. Add rye flour (with a touch extra yeast). Or chocolate. Or olives. Or apricots and almonds. Lahey offers ideas to get you started. He also offers some pizza recipes that demand your attention. But that’s another story …

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