Thursday, March 20, 2014

Crusty No Knead Bread

More appropriately this post should be titled; "The Bread That Changed My Life". I'm not kidding you, it has. I almost certainly won't be buying anymore rustic loaves of bread from the grocery store. I am declaring myself the official bread bringer of ANY dinner party to which I am invited. And, I have ditched my attitude towards bread making. This bread is that good and that easy. 

Seriously, I've had an attitude about baking bread. It always seemed like such a hassle. All the rising and punching down and rising again and shaping and resting and rising and baking and bla bla bla. With two teenagers, a husband in grad school, a job, a blog and two crazy dachshunds, extra patients for baking bread is in short supply. Then I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest and it didn't look too bad. No kneading, I was skeptical but I thought I'd give it a try. There was still some waiting and resting and rising but I realized, to quote The Dude, "that my thinking on this had become very uptight." So I rethought the whole timing and rising thing and gave it a whirl. 

Note: you need a heavy, lidded, ovenproof pot for this recipe. I used my Le Creuset French Oven which worked beautifully. I know, I know, they are way expensive, but if you can swing it, they are the best. Really its a "Magic Pot" if you ask me. But, you can use any pot that can take the heat and can be covered.

Ingredients don't get easier than this: Flour (AP, you don't even need bread flour), instant or rapid rise yeast, salt and water.

Stir together the flour, yeast and salt.

Add the water. . .

And stir to combine. It will look pretty "shaggy", lumpy and a bit on the dry side. That's ok. Just cover the bowl with some plastic wrap and let it sit out on the counter for 12 to 18 hours, or overnight or more (up to 24 is ok.).

After all that time, it will look pretty bubbly. Next you want to get your pot ready.
First preheat the oven to 450°F. Yes, that's HOT. When the oven is up to temp, put your empty pot in the oven and let it preheat for 30 minutes. Yes, it's empty and the lid is on. That's correct.

Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a well floured board. I said WELL FLOURED. Don't skimp here. This is a pretty "wet" dough at this point and you don't want it to stick.

Shape the dough into a ball but resist the urge to knead or handle it too much. Just gently work it into a nice round loaf, flouring your hands well as you do. Let it rest for 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap. Just recycle the plastic wrap you had over the bowl.

After the pot has preheated for a FULL 30 minutes, and the dough has rested for a FULL 30 minutes, carefully set the dough into the pot. Be really careful here, remember that pot is close to 450°. Put the lid on and return the pot to the oven for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake 15 minutes more, uncovered.

Oh mama, look at that. And I can't even tell you what my house smelled like. Take a ganders at the next picture if you really want to see a thing of beauty. . .

Man oh man, was this good. I didn't have to will power to let it cool so I just hacked into it, slathered a couple of slices with butter and shoved them into my gob. So, so, so, good. A crisp, crusty, chewy outside, with a soft spongy inside. This loaf lasted all of about 15 minutes once my family got a hold of it. Thumbs up all the way around. Its already in heavy rotation around my kitchen. I may never buy bread at the store again. I can't wait to try all the flavored variations from the original blog post. The possibilities are endless.

As for the timing, mine when like this:
1. The night before I mixed up the dough, covered and set it on the counter.
2. The next day, after the kiddos were off to school, I set my oven to preheat.
3. While the oven was preheating, I shaped my loaf, and covered it to rest.
4. By now the oven was up to 450°F so I stuck the pot in and set the timer for 30 minutes.
(Then I ran upstairs and hopped on the stationary bike for a quick 30 minute workout.)
5. The pot was preheated so in the dough went, cover on the pot and then into the oven for 30 minutes.
(Then I ran back upstairs for a quick shower, I was feeling a bit funky after my "workout".)
6. After 30 minutes, freshly showered, I ran back downstairs, removed the lid, and set the timer for 15  minutes.
(Then tidied up the kitchen and took out the trash.)
7. Bread was done, workout complete, shower. . .check!, kitchen tidied, trash to the curb and fresh bread. Not a bad little morning.

Now stop reading this blog and go get this recipe. . .NOW!: Crusty Bread

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