Have I been living under a rock?
Is it possible that I can have waited until now to actually take a look at the details of Jim Lahey’s no knead bread method as revealed to the world by Mark Bittman in the New York Times a couple of years back?
The answer, it would appear, is yes.
I was finally prodded into action when I read about kickpleat’s successful first foray into the world of no kneading. I read her description of the method. I went back and had a look at the original recipe as posted in the New York Times. Could it really be that easy to produce a loaf of bread that looks like a real French boule from a real French boulangerie. Well, yes, apparently it is…
Now, it does require a lot of time to produce – 15+ hours from start to finish – but most of that is spent
waiting for the dough to rise sleeping. It uses a small amount of yeast and an extended rising time to do the work that the kneading would have done. It uses a fairly wet dough, baked in a heavy lidded pot, to achieve the same effect on the crust as a steam injection oven. It’s hands-down the best-looking yeast bread (or yeast anything for that matter) that I have ever made. There were lots of nice nooks and crannies in the slices, perfect for trapping little gobs of butter or goats cheese, say. It’s bread that says toast me and make some bruschetta. It’s bread that I will make again and again and I get the feeling that I will be impressed by the fact that it has come from my oven every time.
Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread
You can reference the recipe as it appeared in the New York Times here. In what I describe below, I have converted things to the metric system, because I simply do not trust my American cup measures. My tendency to skeptiscism also lead me to use more yeast than I necessarily needed to, given the long rising time. Next time I might try reducing the yeast by half and giving the dough even longer to rise.
- 500g strong bread flour
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 0.5 tsp fast action / easy blend yeast
- Approx 450ml water
- Cornmeal or wheatbran for dusting
You’ll also need:
- A heavy lidded ceramic or cast-iron pot that can be used in the oven – I used my 24 cm wide cast iron casserole (which has a capacity of about 3.5 litres).
- 2 clean tea-towels
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, yeast and salt together well.
- Add the water and stir until blended. The dough will be sticky and ragged-looking.
- Cover the bowl with cling-film and leave to rise for at least 12 hours at warm room temperature. The dough should have doubled in bulk and will be bubbly on top.
- Lightly flour a work-surface and turn the dough onto it. Sprinkle with a little more flour and fold the dough over once or twice. Then cover loosely with cling-film and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
- Now gently shape the dough into a ball using just enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers or to the work-surface.
- Take a clean tea-towel and coat generously with cornmeal, wheatbran or flour. Place the dough onto the towel and dust with more cornmeal, wheatbran or flour.
- Let the dough rise again for about 2 hours, after which it should have more than doubled in size and, if you poke it with your finger, it should make an indentation which won’t easily spring back.
- Meanwhile, at least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 220C and place your cast-iron or ceramic pot, lid ‘n’ all, into the oven while it’s heating.
- When the dough is ready (according to the finger poking test above), remove the pot from the oven and do be careful, because it will be very hot.
- Turn the dough into the pot and, if the dough is unevenly distributed, just shake the pot once or twice to settle it. It will straighten out as it bakes anyway.
- If you want a nice cross on your bread, take a sharp knife and slash a cross in the top of the dough.
- Cover the pot and return to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. Then remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes until, as the original recipe says, it is beautifully browned.
- Cool on a wire rack and then devour.
- Mark Bittman comments that, while it’s best made with strong bread flour, you can use plain or all-purpose flour instead. You could also try varying the flour mix to use some wholewheat or rye flours.
- A loaf that looks like it (a) came from a French bakery and (b) won’t last long.