A couple weeks ago, I was reading the comments on a blog post about bread, and there was a link to an old NYT article by Mark Bittman, describing a baker in New York who had developed a really easy, no-knead method for baking bread. The article describes his method, and includes his recipe. There’s also a video tutorial on youTube.
I can’t help but wonder if this very article is what got the “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day/Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” people thinking, since this article pre-dates those books. Jim Lahey, the NY baker, has a very similar method to the one outlined in that book, with one key difference: he uses significantly less yeast, and lets the dough sit at room temperature for a very long time, until it starts to naturally ferment. Bittman explains it all very nicely in the article.
The recipe included in the Times called for white flour, so I modified it, made it my own, and now present it to you: the very best bread that has ever come out of my oven (I know I said that last week too, but this one beats that one). It’s almost all whole wheat, it’s soaked (therefore it is more Nourishing Traditions/Weston A Price-friendly than most breads), it requires little to no special equipment, and best of all it is EASY!
Easy, no-knead whole wheat bread
2 3/4 c. whole wheat flour or whole wheat bread flour
1 c. white flour or white bread flour
Scant 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp. salt
Cornmeal for dusting
2 c. water, room-temperature
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 2 c. water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest 18 – 24 hours, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles (more white flour = more 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. Don’t worry about it if it seems gooey and weird. 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/spread 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-quart heavy covered pot (I used our Lodge enameled cast-iron one) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove the now-hot 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. Just look at this beauty:
Make sure you cool it completely so the crust can fully develop. Wow, was this delicious. I love that the only equipment you really need is the heavy pot — as much as I would love a le creuset one, our Lodge one works just fine, and we got it for around $50 at Fleet Farm. (And we use it for lots of other things besides bread.) Here’s the bread after cutting:
Oh my. I think I will be adapting more “Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” recipes and baking them with this method. Their way is good, but this way is even better. Here is all the original information that inspired me:
My next bread-related post will be a 100% whole grain version of this. Might take a couple weeks, but I promise I’ll get to it!
UPDATE, March 18, 2010: Here it is, a 100% whole wheat version of this recipe.