There is something about baking bread that is addictive. Maybe it’s the way that a rough hodgepodge of flour and water becomes a smooth, elastic ball of dough. Maybe it’s the vigorous kneading, the anticipation of watching the dough double and triple in size as a result. Or maybe it’s knowing that you’ve created one of the simplest, most basic foods on earth, with nothing more than a few elementary ingredients.
Either way, now that I’ve started baking bread, it’s become so ingrained in my routine that we almost always have a fresh loaf cooling on the counter, waiting to be cut into. However, for those days when the kneading, proofing and rising time of sourdough bread just doesn’t fit into my schedule, this bread steps up. Unbelievably, despite the fact that it’s no-knead and takes less than half a day, it’s a flavorful bread with wonderfully soft texture, and a delightfully crunchy, golden crust that’s reminiscent of the best artisan breads. I’ve adapted the classic recipe to fit practically anyone’s schedule, and with this useful recipe in your archives, you’ll have bread on the table by dinnertime.
Yield: 1 loaf of bread
Why I love this recipe: left to rise for 8 hours, in a sort of prolonged autolysis, the bread will begin to form gluten on its own, via enzymes which break down the protein in the flour and turn it to gluten, thus eliminating the need for kneading. Baking the bread in a dutch oven, which simulates a bread cloche and traps moisture, creates a bronzed and crackly crust like the best artisan loaves have, and ensures that oven spring not be compromised due to lack of a commercial oven.
- 3 cups bread flour
- 3/4 teaspoon regular, active dry yeast
- pinch sugar
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Mix the yeast, pinch of sugar and 2 tablespoons of warm water. Let proof for 10 minutes.
- Mix all the ingredients, around 3 minutes. You will have a thick, slightly shaggy dough. Cover with a towel and leave it in the warmest place (like a stove-top) in your kitchen. It should get a 6 to 8-hour rise.
- When the rise is done, lightly flour a counter and turn dough out on it. Shape it roughly into a ball, mist with oil, and cover with a towel. Let proof for 1 hour.
- Heat the oven to 450°F. Put a Dutch oven in the oven to heat. When the dough has doubled in size, after the second proofing, put it in the pan. As the dough is very wet, you may need to wrest it in- but don’t worry; it will fix itself in the oven.
- Cover the pot with a lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake for another 15 minutes to let it brown.