I am sure many of you will be familiar with “no knead” bread, developed by Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. The technique has been used by many bakers to produce virtually effortless bread.
I discovered no knead bread only recently, via the TV program Paul Hollywood City Bakes – New York, when he visited the New York bakery, and Jim Lahey showed him the magic technique.
And yes it’s easy and yes it works! You only need to invest time, up to 24 hours, but the result is beautifully baked bread!
Here is the recipe/technique, based on that of Mark Bittman, who first shared the recipe in the New York Times in 2006. As Mark says “a wet dough and slow fermentation are the keys to success” as well as “the unique baking method — a heated covered pot — which creates essentially an oven within an oven to trap steam as the bread bakes.”
430g strong flour plus extra as needed
Cornmeal, semolina, or wheat bran for dusting
Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and stir until blended. The dough should be shaggy and sticky – add a little more water if it seems dry. Dont knead!
Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap or my favourite, a plastic shower cap. Let the dough rest for a minimum 12 hours, or up to 18 hours at room temperature. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
Lightly flour a work surface, and turn the dough onto the surface. Carefully and quickly lift the edges of the dough in toward the centre, folding the dough over onto itself. Tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round. Don’t knead!
Generously coat a cotton tea towel with cornmeal, semolina, or wheat bran and put the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours. When ready, the dough will be more than doubled in size and won’t spring back readily when poked with your finger.
At least a half hour before the dough is ready, adjust an oven rack to the lower third of the oven, and pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees C. Place a medium sized cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic casserole pot, lid on, into the oven to heat up. I used a Le Creuset casserole.
When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and take off the lid. Turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up, by sliding your hand under the tea towel and quickly turning the dough over into the pot. It can look a bit untidy but the dough seems to settle into an acceptable shape in the oven!
Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is quite brown. The bread should look really brown – I am sometimes tempted to take out the bread 10 minutes too early. Brown to dark brown is good!
Once the bread is done, lift the bread from the pot onto a wire rack with pot holders or tongs. Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting the loaf.
Serve with lashings of butter, olive oil or a great dip!