Thursday, August 4, 2011

Needy for No Knead Bread

In one episode of my all-time favorite show, Gilmore Girls, Lorelei Gilmore asks "Where have all the anvils gone?" Well, I can answer this question. They melted them all down because they didn't need them after I baked my first loaf of bread. Oh yes, the bread anvil, harder and heavier than lead...and possibly uranium.

Baking bread had eluded me all my days...until I met Bonnie Stern's No Knead Bread recipe. I was rescued by this glorious artisanal bread that not only looked cool, but tasted delightful! And it's so ridiculously easy. You need time, flour, yeast, wine vinegar, salt, a good sized bowl and a cast iron pot with lid. Don't attempt this two hours before your guests come for dinner. You need at least six hours for this. (The first Bonnie Stern no knead recipe I used required 18 hours, so six seems like a dream!)

Recipe adapted from Bonnie Stern's No Knead Artisanal Bread
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (or multigrain bread flour)
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast (fresh is best)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 tsp white wine vinegar
  • extra flour for stages of rising
  • seeds, oats, cranberries, cinnamon, herbes de Provence - anything you want to add to it to make it yummy! 
  • cast iron pot with lid. I use 3.5 liter pot.
In a large bowl combine flour, salt and yeast. At this point you would add your dry or fresh herbs or cinnamon or lemon zest (oh yes I did - with cracked pepper and it was amazing with seafood chowder). Combine warm water with vinegar in a measuring cup. Stir liquid into the flour mixture.

Once you combine the ingredients, the dough will be a bit shaggy and wet - it's supposed to be. Cover with plastic wrap.
I made 5 loaves at once to test different herbs and grains. This is unbleached all purpose flour.
Let it rise at room temperature for 3-4 hours. It will be bubbly when it's ready:
When it comes time to let it rise again, she suggests using a generously floured tea towel. Perhaps my tea towels are too grabby, but it doesn't seem to matter how floured my towels are, a good chunk of dough often remains on the towel and I've had to throw out a few as I've tested different towels.

I find it easiest to flour a piece of parchment, scrape the dough out onto the parchment, flour it and work it into a ball. You don't need to knead it at this point...but sometimes I do for about 30 seconds, especially if using multi-grain or whole wheat does help to make it a little more airy. But don't feel pressure to do so. Your bread will still be delicious.

Then let the ball of dough rest on the floured parchment...then flour the top of the dough and place another piece of parchment on top instead of placing a tea towel on top.
Herbes de Provence
  After about 2 hours it will double in size. It's quite a wet dough, so I find that peeling back parchment works better than the tea towel method...almost all the dough is freed from the parchment. You may need a dough spatula to help it out a little.
Herbes de Provence
About 30 minutes before your dough is at this stage, turn your oven to 450 F and put in your cast iron pot with the lid on. This is imperative. Your cast iron pot needs to be hot hot hot before you drop your dough in.

I made the mistake of leaving my pot out too long. Once it had finished baking, the pot wouldn't let go of the bread! I had to rip it out and spend an hour chiseling the rest of the bread off the bottom. I could imagine it would be similar to cleaning barnacles off a boat. So, don't take the pot out until you're ready to put the dough in!

I add poppy, sesame and sunflower seeds to my multigrain loaves just after I've placed the dough in the pot. Put on the lid and put it in the oven for 26-30 minutes. It should have a light golden crust to it. Then take the lid off and leave the bread in for another 5-10 minutes until it is a caramel color.
front: herbes de provencal and roasted garlic on top
Mulitgrain with seeds
Herbes de Provence
If you, like me, have run the other direction when it came to baking your own bread - stop. Turn around.  Give Bonnie Stern's recipe a go. It takes time, but very little effort!

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