Friday, January 2, 2009

No-Knead Bread (Jim Lahey's recipe)

Happy New Year!

I trust everyone is rested or recuperating from the holiday. 

So, this year......
You've made your resolutions and I wish you great success in whatever you decide to do.

Personally, I never make New Year's resolutions, and it's not because I am perfect, or that I cannot be bothered. The truth is, all my life I have been the worlds biggest procrastinator and I put off making the resolution until, oh, I don't know.... April.  By then, all community support for New Year's resolutions have evaporated and everyone is worried about tax time.  Besides, I am much better at helping friends with THEIR resolutions. It's a nice balance. Someone has to keep everyone on task, right? 

Easy No-Knead Bread.

One of the requests I receive each year; classes on bread making or mastering a really good french bread technique.  I love making good crusty french bread at home, but most cooks cannot devote the time needed to develop the flavor and texture required for a great bread. What good is a wonderful recipe if most people are too intimidated to try it at home? 

Several years ago, a New York baker named Jim Lahey (Sullivan Street Bakery) invited Mark Bittman (NY Times) to his shop and introduced the world to his "no-knead" bread. 

My friends this is a winner!  It literally takes minutes to mix the dough, then you cover it and let it works its magic.  While I hesitate to call this foolproof, it is pretty darn close. If you have the time, click on the link above and watch the video. It really cannot get any easier.


A few notes:
*I used active dry yeast.  I never use Rapid Rise yeast, as it is not meant for long proofing times. Rapid Rise is for quick rising breads, and bread machines (it's the long proofing/rising time that develops depth of flavor in bread)
*I really prefer an additional 1/4 teaspoon of salt
*If you live in a drier climate, you may need to add  an additional 2-4 Tablespoons of water to your dough.
*If you watch the video, notice the deep dark brown color of the baker's bread. A deeper color means you will have a good crisp crust. 
*As tempting as it is...NEVER cut your bread while it is hot. First, allowing your bread to cool allows the crust and crumb to continue to develop. Second, cutting into hot bread produces compact doughy slices.  
*If you are not going to eat your bread within a day, allow it to cool, then triple wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it until you are ready to eat it.  When ready, just warm it in a 325 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.  Never store bread in the refrigerator. Either eat within 24 hours or freeze it.


Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
New York Times, November 8, 2006

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
** you can easily double or triple recipe, just cut the dough in half before final shaping.

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast, or active dry yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt ( I prefer 1/4 teaspoon more)
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

3. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.


Chef Deb T.