No-Knead Bread

I cannot believe it has taken me this long to get on the no-knead bread train. I'm a little late to the party, I know. Well, the main thing standing in my way was that I didn't have an enameled dutch oven. (That's your cue to go over to Amazon and buy one for yourself. Go on! You deserve it!) Honestly, now that I know how amazing and effortless this bread is, I should have run out and bought one as soon as I first heard about this recipe years ago.

Anyway. All you need to know is that this is like fancy bread you'd get at some kind of european bakery, but it takes almost NO effort to make it. So, you should do it. I've included the white version (the tastiest) and the wheat version (the healthiest and still pretty dang tasty, for whole wheat).

No-Knead Bread

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.

Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

4 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour)
2 cups water plus 3-4 tablespoons water  (adjust depending on the consistency of the dough. Yes, 1 tablespoon can make a huge difference.)
2 teaspoons salt
½ plus 1/8 teaspoon yeast

1) Mix all the ingredients in a bowl just until they are thoroughly mixed. Cover the bowl with plastic and set the bowl aside for 12 to 18 hours.

2) After the first rising, lightly flour the counter top and use a spatula to remove the dough from the bowl and put it on to the counter top. Fold the dough over on itself from left to right, turn the dough 90° and fold it again. Lightly shape and dough into a ball and place it on a well-floured tea towel. Fold the towel flaps over the dough to cover, and let it rise for an hour and a half.

3) Allow the dough to continue rising on the counter top while you heat the oven. Turn the oven temperature on to 475° and put the covered pot into the oven. Let the pot and the oven warm for 30 minutes.

4) Take the pot out of the oven, remove the lid and slide the dough off the tea towel into the pot. Cover the pot, place it back in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

5) After the 30 minutes is up, remove the lid from the pot. Set the timer for another 15-20 minutes and continue cooking the bread until the top is browned to your liking.

6) Take the pot out of the oven and use a large spatula to remove the bread. Let it cool on a cookie rack about 15 to 20 minutes before cutting into it. Waiting to taste it is the hardest step in the whole recipe, but if you cut into the bread too early it will not finish cooking properly.

Recipe from Jim Lahey via the NY Times.

Whole wheat adaptation via My Healthy Eating Habits.

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