January 31, 2011

No-Knead Bread

I have had this no-knead bread recipe bookmarked for the longest time, but just got around to trying it. (Ironic, since after receiving a stand mixer, I'm so excited to be able to skip the hand-kneading part of recipes.) Maybe something about the awkward timing of the recipe kept me from jumping into it.

If, like me, you've been meaning to make this bread, but haven't gotten around to it, let me give you a push: this bread is worth the (18 hour) wait.

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, see this Minimalist post, where Bittman extols the virtues of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread technique. Instead of relying on kneading to form gluten, this very wet dough is allowed to ferment for up to 18 hours, which creates gluten. The baking technique mimics a high-humidity, hot oven, usually out of the reach of home cooks. And the results are truly bakery quality: soft, chewey interior, with a crispy, crackly crust.

I recommend this project for a weekend- otherwise you'll end up having to get up early and bake it off before you have to go to work, like I did. But no matter when you make it, you'll eat it very quickly and start thinking about when you have the time to make more.

Also, note that the dough needs to rise at warm room temperature- 70 degrees F. Many homes in Maine are not 70 degrees this time of year! I put my dough next to the heater and let it bubble away for 18 hours.

Any Dutch oven or cast iron pot with a lid will work; I used a great cast iron Dutch oven, rescued from the garage at my office.

Cool, right? I'm kind of in awe that a loaf so awesome came from my kitchen with such little effort.