Wednesday, May 5, 2010

No Knead French Bread

There has always been something deeply intimidating about baking bread. I don't know why, but bread seemed like some unattainable deliciousness to me (I was sure there must be some secret bread dance I was unaware of or something). I've always planned on trying my hand at bread making, but it was one of those things that kept getting put off. When I saw this recipe for no-knead bread at Honey & Jam though, I knew I finally had to give it a go.

And I am very glad I did.

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For one, "no-knead" anything sounds pretty great to me. Plus this recipe only has four ingredients. And even though the recipe calls for a pizza stone, you can just as easily use a cast iron skillet.

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The only thing I wasn't completely happy with was the slight flour-taste the inside of the loaf had. This could be because I'm just picky, but it could also be due to the face I used bleached flour (it's what I had on hand) instead of unbleached. The crust on these loaves is amazing though. I happened to get super sick the day after I made a loaf and there was nothing as comforting as a huge chunk of this crusty bread dipped into a bowl of top ramen.

Will I make this again? For sure.

No Knead French Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups of lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt

6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions:

1.In a 5-quart bowl, mix the yeast, water and salt. Add all the flour, then use a wooden spoon to mix until all ingredients are uniformly moist. It is not necessary to knead or continue mixing once the ingredients are uniformly moist. This will produce a loose and very wet dough.

2.Cover with a lid (not airtight). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, about 2 hours, but no more than 5 hours.

3. After rising, the dough can be baked immediately, or covered (non completely airtight) and refrigerated up to 14 days. To bake the bread, just grab a chunk of dough, about the size of a grapefruit. Dust your hands with flour to help prevent sticking, and gently pull the sides of the dough toward the bottom, rotating the dough, until you get a roundish shape with a smooth surface. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out during resting and baking. Shaping the loaf this way should take no more than 1 minute.

4. Put it on a cutting board that’s been dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking, and let it rest for at least 40 minutes. No need to cover it. If the dough has been refrigerated, it helps to let it rest a little more, until it’s no longer chilled.

5. Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake, put a cast iron skillet (or a pizza stone) in the middle rack of your oven, and put a broiler pan (or a cookie sheet) in the bottom rack. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Dust some flour on the top of your loaf, and slash the top, about 1/4-inch deep.

6. After twenty minutes of preheating, it’s time to bake. (You can put the bread in after 20 minutes, even if your oven hasn’t reached 450 degrees yet.) Slide the loaf onto the baking stone, and then quickly pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan. Then quickly shut the oven door to keep the steam inside.

7.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until you get a nice brown crust. Remove and let cool completely, if you can wait that long.

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