Friday, March 20, 2009

Easy Artisanal Bread

Not content with making really fabulous pizza and biscuits to die for, John has now turned his hand to bread making. Inspired by a friend who came to dinner a few weeks ago, bearing a crusty loaf he'd made, John is now turning out these babies on a regular basis.

It's super easy; it just requires patience.

John begins, as in the picture below, mixing together flour, yeast, water, and salt. The mixture is very, very sticky. Next he covers the bowl with plastic wrap and lets it sit in a warm place for twelve to eighteen hours. This is the part about being patient.

When all this time has passed and the dough is looking bubbly, John flours a piece of parchment paper, turns out the dough onto it, sprinkles with more flour, and, using a spatula or baker's scraper, folds the dough over once or twice.

There is NO KNEADING !!! You couldn't if you wanted to; the dough is far too sticky and that's the way it's supposed to be.

Now you may have tried those so called no-knead batter breads in the past and been disappointed -- tasty enough, I always thought, but not like real bread.

This is different. The long slow rise and the cooking method work some sort of magic that produces a crusty exterior and an interior, dare I say it, reminiscent of a French baguette.

The heavy pot and its cover have been heating and now John simply picks up the parchment paper and the dough, plops it into the heated pot, puts the lid on and shoves it back into the oven.

The covered bread bakes for 30 minutes in its own little steam bath which is what makes that good crust. Then it bakes 15 minutes uncovered so the loaf will brown.

The full and original recipe is below -- the parchment paper, John's addition, makes for less cleanup and no chance of sticking. In the picture below, he's sprinkled sesame seeds on top before baking.

Full disclosure: In the middle of doing this post, I had to go downstairs and have a slice of this bread, I had made myself so hungry writing about it.

The New York Times
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November 8, 2006

Recipe: No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
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. 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. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. 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.

4. 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.


Stella Jones said...

Looks delicious and certainly worth a try. Thanks for sharing the recipe with us.
Blessings, Star

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

oh boy.
Hope to try this over the weekend.
Thanks, Vicki!
and thanks to John!

Tess Kincaid said...

Oh yum. I'm taking this recipe back to the manor with me. I've been thinking about it ever since you posted that pic of your breakfast slice! Thank you!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Vicki, I think I'm going to do a set of recipe/cooking poems. I've already started one about butternut squash soup.
I'm going to give this bread a try. Used to bake bread all the time, but then--I'd eat it. Now I make it only rarely. So satisfying, though, when I do.

Vicki Lane said...

You all try this and I shall be able to tell John he's brought happiness to women all over the world.

Kay, I love the idea of recipe poems -- and this bread is a poem -- a miracle of earth (from whence the wheat), air (the action of the yeast), fire and water. With a little salt for savor.

Carol Murdock said...

This looks "liscous" as my granddaughter says. I got my Willow Manor Copycat Bread Machine Wednesday but haven't had a chance to use it. I can do this one without the machine!

Anonymous said...

Bought the flour, bought the yeast, will try to make it over the weekend and let you know how it turns out. Many thanks to John for sharing!

Pat in east TN said...

I have been baking our bread for quite a while now, but your/John's recipe sounds SO yummy and SO easy. I'm going to give it a try next week ... thanks for sharing.

By the way, love the idea of painting the inside of your cupboards red ... woo hoo!!!

Vicki Lane said...

Carol, Karen, Pat -- I can't wait to hear how it turns out! I think you'll be amazed at the quality for so little work.

Pat -- if I can manage finally to paint those cupboard insides, be assured I'll post pictures!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Ok, all of you check my blog tomorrow for a recipe poem--but you'll have to help me with the ending!

Vicki Lane said...

Kay, How neat! I'll be there!

Anonymous said...

My sister-in-law in ATL turned me onto this bread and it is easy and the crust is great. And I'm a crust-snob, so I ought to know. Way to go, John--what a lovely way to celebrate spring--fresh bread!