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Easy, no-knead bread

Methods guaranteed to make everyone a baker

June 27, 2017
By KAREN K. WILL - GRIT magazine , Farm News

By Karen K. Will

GRIT Magazine

I used to be intimidated by bread baking. I thought it was a monumental task that only homemakers invested in ... mixing, kneading, waiting for rises, expensive stand mixers with dough hooks, etc. I hate to admit it, but I went to the grocery store and bought the mini loaves of "artisan" bread trucked in from California.

Article Photos

-Photo by Karen K. Will GRIT Magazine
This chocolate cherry bread is made using a slow-rise method in which the flavor is a result of slow fermentation.

My excuse for not baking bread from scratch was that I didn't have the time, nor the fancy equipment. Enter no-knead bread - a magical mixture of flour, salt, yeast, water and time. The world of homemade, thick-crusted, moist-crumbed, real artisan bread opened up to me, and it will for you, too.

After seeing a blurb about Jim Lahey's book My Bread (W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., 2009) in a magazine, I was intrigued, and rushed out to get it. According to Lahey, anyone could easily make no-knead, artisan-style bread in their home kitchen with a minimal amount of time, equipment and effort. Really? It all sounded too good to be true but as it turned out, it wasn't.

The following method of bread making takes a bit of forethought, some mixing, and a lot of time in between. It's a "slow rise" method in which the flavor is a result of slow fermentation, and the texture is the result of baking in a cast-iron pot. The yeast is eased to life over 12 to 18 hours, rather than shocked to life with warm water and sugar (this type of bread doesn't require any added sugar at all). The ingredients are pure and simple - the white loaf calls for flour, salt, yeast, water - and most are probably already in your pantry.

Due to the nature of slow fermentation, you'll need to start your bread the day before you want to consume it. This may be hard to get your mind around, but the effort is well worth it. There isn't space in this article to go over the culinary science and reasons behind this method - from fermentation to singing (the wonderful crackling sound the loaf makes as it's removed from the oven that signals the beginning of the important cooling process) - so for that, please get a copy of Lahey's book and commit it to memory.

My method slightly deviates from Lahey's. After baking several hundred loaves at the time of this writing, I found a few things that worked better for me in my home kitchen, resulting in less cleanup and better results. I've detailed two methods here for baking. The first is the most commonly used; the second is for use with recipes calling for buttermilk - dairy products burn more easily at higher temperatures.

Feel free to take liberties with these recipes to determine what works - or tastes - best in your kitchen, and to come up with new flavors. Bread is a forgiving medium for experimentation whenever you combine flour, yeast, water, and heat, you'll usually end up with bread in some form, regardless of your kitchen credentials.

Basic white bread

3 cups bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups cool water, divided

Coarse cornmeal for dusting

Bread baking method one:

1. Whisk flour, salt and yeast in large mixing bowl.

2. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and stir with rubber spatula. Add remaining water (and possibly more) as needed until you have a thoroughly mixed, wet, sticky mass of dough. (The dough will not be like any other bread you've made - this will be much wetter and will not form a ball.)

3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 12 to 18 hours.

4. After 12 to 18 hours have passed, your dough should be dotted with bubbles and more than doubled in size. (It may also have a strong alcohol smell to it, but don't mind that, it will burn off in the baking.) Dust wooden cutting board with bread flour and, using plastic dough scrapers, scrape dough loose from sides of bowl and turn out onto board in one piece. (Dough will be loose and sticky, but do not add more flour.) Dust top of loaf lightly with a little flour, and cover with clean cotton or linen tea towel (terry cloth will stick and leave lint on the dough). Let dough rise for another 1 to 2 hours.

5. About 30 minutes before second rise is complete, place cast-iron pot, without lid, on rack positioned in lower third of oven - not at the very bottom - and heat oven to 475 degrees.

6. Once oven has reached 475 degrees, remove pot using heavy-duty potholders (be very careful at this stage, as the pot and oven are extremely hot). Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon coarse cornmeal evenly over bottom of pot. For rye bread, sprinkle rye flour on bottom of pot. and for wheat bread, dust top with wheat bran; for rye, dust top with rye flour; for oat raisin, dust top with old-fashioned oats; and for cardamom cherry, do not dust top with anything.

7. Uncover dough and, using 2 plastic dough scrapers, shape dough into a ball by folding it over onto itself a few times. With scrapers, lift dough carefully and let it fall into preheated pot by slowly separating scrapers. Dust top of dough with coarse cornmeal for wheat bread, dust top with wheat bran; for rye, dust top with rye flour; for oat raisin, dust top with old-fashioned oats; and for cardamom cherry, do not dust top with anything. Cover pot and bake for 30 minutes.

8. After 30 minutes, remove cover from pot, and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes, or until loaf is browned but not burned.

9. Remove pot from oven. With sturdy wooden or metal spatula, pry loaf from pot and transfer to cooling rack. Let bread cool for a minimum of 1 hour before slicing. (This cooling time completes the process and should not be overlooked.)

Wheat bread

2 1/4 cups bread flour

3/4 cup whole-wheat flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups cool water, divided

Wheat bran and coarse cornmeal for dusting

Use bread baking method one (see basic white bread).

Dill bread

3 cups bread flour

2 tablespoons dried dill weed

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

3/4 cup buttermilk

3/4 to 1 cup cool water, divided

Coarse cornmeal for dusting

Bread baking method two:

1. Whisk together flour, dill weed, salt and yeast in large mixing bowl.

2. Combine buttermilk and 3/4 cup water in measuring cup, and add to dry ingredients. Stir with rubber spatula. Add remaining water as needed until you have a thoroughly mixed, wet, sticky mass of dough. (The dough will be much wetter than typical bread dough and will not form a ball.)

3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 12 to 18 hours.

4. After 12 to 18 hours have passed, your dough should be dotted with bubbles and more than doubled in size. (It may also have a strong alcohol smell to it, but it will burn off in the baking.) Dust wooden cutting board with bread flour and, using plastic dough scrapers, scrape dough loose from sides of bowl and turn out onto board in one piece. (Dough will be loose and sticky, but do not add flour.) Dust top lightly with flour, and cover with cotton or linen tea towel (terry cloth will stick and leave lint on dough). Let dough rise for another 1 to 2 hours.

5. About 30 minutes before second rise is complete, place cast-iron pot, without lid, on rack positioned in lower third of oven - not at the very bottom - and heat oven to 450 degrees.

6. Once oven has reached 450 degrees, remove pot using heavy-duty potholders (be very careful, as the pot and oven are extremely hot). Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon coarse cornmeal evenly over bottom of pot.

7. Uncover dough and, using 2 plastic dough scrapers, shape dough into a ball by folding it over onto itself a few times. With scrapers, lift dough and let it fall into preheated pot by slowly separating scrapers. Dust top of dough with coarse cornmeal. (For chocolate cherry bread, do not dust top with anything.) Cover pot and bake for 35 minutes.

8. After 35 minutes, carefully remove cover from pot, and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes, or until loaf is browned but not burned.

9. Remove pot from oven. With sturdy wooden or metal spatula, pry loaf from pot and transfer to cooling rack. Do not slice bread for a minimum of 1 hour - this cooling time completes the process and should not be overlooked.

Oat raisin bread

3 cups bread flour

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon wheat bran

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 3/4 cups cool water

Coarse cornmeal for dusting

Use bread baking method one (see basic white bread).

Cardamom cherry bread

3 cups bread flour

3/4 cup dried tart cherries

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 3/4 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 3/4 cups cool water

Coarse cornmeal for dusting

Use bread baking method one (see basic white bread).

Seeded kamut bread

2 1/4 cups bread flour

3/4 cup Kamut flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 tablespoon ground flax seed meal

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds, plus extra to sprinkle on top before baking

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, plus extra to sprinkle on top before baking

1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus extra to sprinkle on top before baking

1 1/2 cups cool water

1 teaspoon honey, mixed into the cool water

Use bread baking method two (see dill bread).

Pumpkin bread

2 1/2 cups bread flour

1/2 cup spelt or whole-wheat flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup cool water

1 cup puree'd pumpkin or butternut squash, mixed into the cool water

1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds, to sprinkle on top before baking

Use bread baking method two (see dill bread).

Chocolate cherry bread

2 1/2 cups bread flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups cool water

Coarse cornmeal for dusting

Use bread baking method two (see dill bread).

Excerpted from Grit, Celebrating Rural America Since 1882. To read more articles from Grit, please visit www.grit.com, or call 866-803-7096. Copyright 2017 by Ogden Publications Inc.

 
 

 

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