No-Knead Crusty Bread

My mother always used to bake bread at home, and I never appreciated it much until I learned to do it myself. This recipe, adapted by the New York Times from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery, has appeared in many national newspapers, including The Oregonian, where I first came across it. Easy, fun and quite tasty—but you do need to mix it up the night before. Here is my variation of the four simple ingredients that can make magic:

3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant Rapid-Rise yeast
1-1/4 teaspoons salt

In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 2 cups of tepid water, and stir until blended; dough will be very wet. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 10 hours, preferably about 12, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Flour some wax paper and gently and quickly transfer the dough to the floured wax paper. Flour the top lightly and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Gently drape a cotton towel over top and let rise about 2 hours.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Preheat your baking dish and lid (see below) for at least 15 minutes. When dough is ready and oven is hot, turn dough into baking dish, shaking a little to even out the distribution. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is browned. Cool on a rack.

Note about baking dishes: The original recipe calls for a 6-8 quart heavy, covered pot, which is fine. But what I've used just as easily and successfully is either (for a round, artisan shaped loaf) a large stainless steel mixing bowl with the flat bottom from my two-piece tart pan as a lid; or (for a regular rectangular sandwich-ready loaf) two regular loaf pans, one inverted on top of the other. Creating the seal as well as leaving enough head-room are the basic considerations here.

No comments: