Easiest. Bread. Ever.
(adapted from New York Times No-Knead Bread Recipe)
When I first saw this recipe, I was skeptical. No kneading? Seriously? But it’s true. It’s simple, easy, and delicious. Not to mention, costs about .50 a loaf* The same loaf at Whole Foods would cost you about $4.50. Make it, and you’ll look like a hero.
3 Cups Bread Flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast (yes, only 1/4 tsp!)
1 1/4 tsp Salt
A cotton kitchen towel (no terry cloth, or you’ll have a huge mess on your hands!)
(Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf)
The actual labor on this bread is about 30 minutes, but here’s the rub: it has to rise 12-18 hours. I usually mix it up in the afternoon, let it rise over night, then finish it the next morning. You just have to plan ahead a tad.
1. Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 5/8 cup tepid water (about 115-120 degrees). Mix the ingredients together until the all the dough is incorporated and it looks “shaggy”. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place (70 degrees-ish) undisturbed for 12-18 hours.
2. When the surface of the dough is all bubbly, you’re ready for the next step. Lightly flour a work surface (I use a large wood cutting board) and roll the dough out onto it, and sprinkle it with more flour. Roll the dough over on itself a couple times, cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit about 15 minutes.
3. Using enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, gently roll the dough into a ball (don’t get too crazy, just a ball-ish shape is good enough) Now coat the towel really, really well with the cornmeal (regular flour works as well. I like to use a combination of both flour and cornmeal) Place your dough ball on the towel, coat with some more of the flour and/or cornmeal. Cover with another towel (or if the towel is large, fold it loosely over the dough) and let it rise for 2 more hours. I find it easier to then put the towel full of dough in a large pot, preferably the one you are going to bake in. (you’ll see why in a minute) When the dough has about doubled in size it’s ready to bake.
4. About a half hour before your dough is ready, pre-heat the oven to 450. Now here you have two options. Option 1: Place whatever you are going to bake the bread in the oven and heat it up. (use a heavy baking dish or pot. Cast iron. enamel, pyrex or ceramic) When the oven reaches temperature, just slide your hand under the dough and flop it over into the pot. It’s ok if goes in messy, just shake a bit to straighten it out, and it will straighten out the rest of way as it bakes. Option 2: Just pull the towel out and flop the bread gently back into the pot it was rising in. Honestly, I have done this both ways, (pot pre-heated and not) and I see very little difference. Cover the pot with it’s lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes until loaf is nicely browned. Remove the loaf from the pot and let cool for at least 10 minutes on a wire rack. (this is the hard part, it smells so good you’ll want to dig right in! But your loaf is still baking on the inside, so let it cool)
Note: This recipe works great even at altitude, and I find up here at mile-high I do need to bake for the full hour. Things just take a little longer up here.
* Depending where you buy your flour, your loaf will cost .50-about $1 a loaf. I buy organic flour at Costco in bulk and the biggest yeast I can find, so my loaves are on the cheaper side.