Sunday, November 26, 2006

The mother of all breads...

My favorite food writer, Mark Bittman, has done it again. His recipe for No-Knead bread is so amazing and out of this world that I made it three times in four days. It tastes like bread you'd buy from an expensive bakery-- a perfectly crisped crust, a center with large, satisfying air pockets. I haven't tried it yet with wheat flour, or with little pieces of black olives (another idea I had), but I bet it would be terrific. I've made it both with the eighteen hour version and with only letting it rise for six hours (but using a whole teaspoon of yeast)-- both were excellent...

No-Knead Bread

Here is the recipe for no-knead bread. (Can somebody forward this to Andrew? I don't have his email.) Tastes best if you make the dough the night before and cook it the next afternoon or evening, but it will do well with slightly more yeast (a teaspoon) and about six hours of rising time... Don't be alarmed by how sticky it is. Crucial steps include placing the Dutch oven in the oven to heat, also covering bread for first 30 minutes of cooking time (steam=good crust). No need to grease the Dutch oven; the bread won't stick to it.

No-Knead Bread

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp. salt

Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, stir until blended. Will be sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when surface is dotted with bubbles. Flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle flour over and fold it over on itself once or twice. (It will be very sticky). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes.

Coat a cotton towel (not a terry cloth one) with cornmeal or wheat bran. Scoop dough into ball and place on towel, sprinkle with more cornmeal or wheat bran. Let rise another 2 hours.

At least half hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 and place a Dutch oven or other heavy covered pot (cast iron, enaml, Pyrex, or ceramic) in oven as it heats. After 30 minutes, slide your hand under towel and pick up dough, turning over into pot. Shake pan once or twice to evenly distribute dough. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid, bake another 15-30 minutes (15 works for me) until browned. Cool on rack.