If, like me, you’ve ever tried to bake bread at home and found it either too time consuming, too complicated, or too much trouble then this post is for you.
Of course, even if you are a bread baking diva, you might find this no-knead technique interesting.
Now that I’ve practiced a little, I wanted to share with you this cool new way of making bread. The recipe is from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois.
It’s really easy to make and nearly foolproof. If you’re used to making bread the old-school way it will seem strange, but trust me – it works. Here are the ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (100 degrees or so)
- 1 package of Rapid Rise instant yeast
- 2 1/4 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 3 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
First, mix the water, yeast, and salt in a small bowl.
Add the flour to your mixing bowl. (I use a big stand mixer with the dough hook for mixing, but you can use a food processor with the dough blade or just be bad-ass and mix it by hand.)
Then on low speed mix the water/yeast/salt slurry with the flour.
This is what it looks like after about one minute. See how it’s starting come together here? Now you want to increase the speed to medium.
This after about 30 seconds on medium speed. It’s pretty shaggy looking, but in somewhat of a ball.
This is how it should look after another 30 seconds or so. See how it’s clinging to the hook and the sides of the bowl are clean?
It just needs about two minutes or so of mixing total. That’s it. It’s going to look very sticky and nothing like a traditional bread dough. I know it sounds weird, but trust me.
Next get a big bowl with a lid or something you can cover with plastic. But not something that is air tight and won’t let gas escape. Give it either a generous spray of Pam or a drizzle of oil that you smear all around the container.
Pour and scrape the dough into the container using a spatula or lightly oiled hands.
See I told you…it’s really sticky. I forgot to oil my hands. (And took this photo with my left hand thank you very much).
Ok. Here’s the dough. I know it doesn’t look like much but it’s going to work. I promise.
Place the lid on it or cover your bowl with plastic wrap and set it on the counter to rise (ferment) for two hours or so until the dough flattens a little on top.
This is why the container needs to able to breath…after about 45 minutes the lid popped off.
This is what it looks like after two hours. Can you see the air bubbles forming on the bottom?
And it’s still sticky – but much less so than before.
Now, I want you to put it in the refrigerator overnight and fuggedaboutit. See why this is the perfect method for an obsessive compulsive dough checker?
The next day prepare to bake on either a) a baking stone or b) a sheet pan. If you are using a baking stone, place a sheet of parchment paper on the back side of the baking sheet (a makeshift pizza peel type of thing) and sprinkle with flour. If not using a baking stone, place a sheet of parchment paper on the regular side of the baking sheet and sprinkle with flour.
Take the container out of the fridge and sprinkle some flour over the top.
For a small loaf (6 to 8 inches in diameter) grab a handful of dough about the size of a grapefruit. See all those bubbles – that’s good stuff!
Then just cut it off with a serrated knife.
It will weigh about 1 pound or so. This recipe should make two loaves about that size so put the remaining dough in the fridge for the next day. The dough will keep for about two weeks in the refrigerator.
Next flour your hands and the dough generously so it won’t stick and then start to gently form the mass into a ball. What I like to do is tuck the bottom under and rotate it about a quarter turn in my hand a few times.
This is the underside with all the loose ends gathered up.
Once the ball is fairly tight, rest it in your palms.
Firmly, but gently, press the outside edges of your palms together and seal the bottom somewhat. As you press, slide one palm forward so that the dough rotates and continue squeezing the bottom ends together. It won’t be completely sealed tight on the bottom and that’s ok. It’s not hard to do this I promise…just takes a minute and the feel of the dough is just so delightful. That whole “baby’s bottom” kinda thing.
Place the ball of dough on the prepared pan and let it rest for 40 minutes. You may or may not see a lot of rise out of the dough. It’s ok.
Now let’s get your oven set up. You’ll want to set your baking rack in about the center position. If you have one, place an empty broiler tray or heavy duty roasting pan on the very bottom rack of the oven. I actually set mine on the floor of the oven. This is for creating steam which will enhance the crust.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
After the 40 minutes is up, the dough might have flattened out a little and that’s ok. Dust the top of the dough liberally with flour…
…and with a very sharp knife, make 1/4 inch deep slashes on top (to allow for steam to escape).
Then either slide the dough (parchment and all) onto the baking stone or place your baking sheet on the middle rack.
Pour about 1 cup of hot water into the tray on the bottom (BE CAREFUL!!).
Bake for approximately 30 minutes until the crust is deeply brown and the interior is 200-205 degrees. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. I know it’s hard, but let it cool completely. It makes a huge difference in the crust and interior. You’ll probably hear some crackling noises while it’s cooling and that good! Try to wait at least an hour or so.
Ok now you can can cut it. This bread is so good. Crisp and chewy on the outside and moist and creamy on the inside. Our favorite way to enjoy this bread is to dip it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a little cracked pepper. Although it’s equally good with butter and honey too. And it also makes amazing French toast the next day….assuming you have any left.
I know this sounds like a ton of work, but it’s not (I tried to include a lots of pictures since it’s kind of a hard process to describe). Actually, this post took longer to write than the whole bread making process.
I hope you give this a try because there’s nothing like fresh bread out of your own oven. It’s such simple food yet, for me, it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Plus your family will think you are a rock star. And who doesn’t like that!
I promise…you can do this!
P.S. Once again a HUGE thanks to my very special production assistant, Kelsey, for taking photos for me. I promise I’ll make you more some more French toast. And try the delicious cinnamon roll recipe in the book!
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