It’s school vacation week. Betsy and the little ones will be heading this way for a visit. Friends are coming for dinner tonight. A lump of dough is about to go in the oven to emerge as a crusty loaf of bread.
Let me say at the outset that I’m a huge fan of kneading. I love the feel of the dough as it transforms from a shaggy mess to something smooth and supple in my hands. But there is a lot to be said for the No Knead method, especially when the desire for homemade bread is strong and time is short.
There are multiple books on the subject, from the original Jim Leahy method to books on making bread in five minutes a day. You have to plan ahead to give the dough time to develop, but there’s no real work involved, and the end product is pretty amazing.
My approach is a combination of methods and a lower oven temperature than most recommend, but it works. What else can I say?
For one boule. (Think crusty North End loaf. I’m not kidding.)
The day before you want to make the bread:
Combine 3 C flour ( King Arthur AP or Bread), 3/4 TBS Kosher salt, 3/4 TBS rapid rise yeast, and 1 3/4 C room temperature water in a large enough bowl to allow for rising. Cover lightly and let rise for a couple of hours in a warm kitchen. I actually use an empty microwave for rising bread dough. It’s a nice cozy place without drafts, and it gets the bowl off of the counter. After this first rise, put the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
The day you want to bake the bread:
Put a heavy pot with a close fitting cover ( I use a 4 Qt. Le Creuset ) in a 425 oven for an hour to get really hot. What you’re doing here is simulating a steam oven. At the same time, take the dough from the refrigerator and put it on a board sprinkled with a little flour. Form it into a round loaf and let it come to room temperature and relax while the pot is heating up. Think microwave again.
After about an hour, take the pot out of the oven, open the lid and pop in the dough. The shape doesn’t have to be perfect. BE CAREFUL. The pot is really hot. Put the covered pot back in the oven for a half hour. After a half hour, remove the cover and leave the pot in the oven, uncovered, for 15-17 minutes.
Remove the bread and let it cool on a rack for at least an hour, if not more. This is important. You won’t be happy with the texture of the bread if you tear right into it.
Pictured is the loaf I just took out of the oven. This technique really works!