This is a guest post from Sofya of The Girls’ Guide to Guns and Butter. Welcome, Sofya!
Growing up in Baku, the capital of then-Soviet Azerbaijan, I was spoiled by an easy access to some irresistibly delicious fresh bread – always made the day you bought it, often still quite hot. From factory-made French loaves to traditional naans that emerged from the tandoor ovens of street-corner operations, these bore no resemblance to the days-old, preservatives-laden packages I was faced with in my Wisconsin town of 4000.
It didn’t take long to realize that to enjoy the quality and the freshness I was used to, I would have to bake bread myself. Since great bread was widely produced and very affordable back home, it was uncommon for a city dweller like myself to know how to bake their own, so I had to learn from scratch.
Over the years, I have experimented with many different recipes – from wild sourdough to various yeasted varieties, but it wasn’t until I came across no-knead that I was finally able to reliably churn out great bread with regularity and ease.
No-Knead Bread: the Method
The simple method involved mixing all of the ingredients, letting the dough rise for a rather flexible stretch of time (anywhere between a few hours to overnight), and baking it at a really high heat after some minimal shaping and some extra rising time in a preheated dutch oven.
The steam trapped by the pot’s lid contributed to the crispy, chewy crust, while an extremely hot pot assured that the loaves would rise high and fast.
To streamline this process even further, I began to omit both the shaping of the dough into a loaf before baking and the second rise, cutting down on time, work, and, most importantly, the mess. I have also nearly doubled the original recipe to accommodate my family’s hearty appetites.
I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am to be sharing my simplified adaptation of this excellent, fail-proof recipe here at Simple Bites.
Recipe: No-Knead Bread
Adapted from the New York Times.
- 6 cups all-purpose flour (you may substitute up to 2 ½ cups with whole-wheat or other kind of wholegrain flour)
- 3 ½ teaspoon table salt
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast, sprinkled over ½ cup of warm water between 110 and 115 degrees
- 3 cups of 110 to 115-degree water
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (I always start at the slowest speed to avoid flour flying into the air, and once most of the flour is incorporated, I switch to the second-slowest speed to finish).
Alternatively, use a wooden spoon to mix everything in a large bowl. When you are done, your dough will look like this:
ALL photos by Sofya
Next, use a bowl scraper or a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and to compact the dough neatly on the bottom:
Cover the bowl with a plate and allow the dough to rise at room temperature from between 4-5 hours to overnight.
I usually make my dough in the evening and then bake it the following morning, but I’ve also been known to increase the amount of yeast to 2 teaspoons for a quick two-hour rise in a pinch.
The dough is ready to bake as soon as it has doubled in bulk and the surface has become dotted with air bubbles:
Half-an-hour before you intend to bake, place your dutch oven into the oven and set the temperature to 500 degrees F. Set the timer for 30 minutes.
TIP: No dutch oven? No problem! This bread can also be successfully baked in a stock-pot, as long as your lid isn’t glass and doesn’t feature a plastic handle. If your only suitable pot does not have an oven-safe lid, use a cookie-sheet as a makeshift pot cover.
Both an enameled and a non-enameled dutch oven will work. Since I bake nearly daily, I keep a dedicated Lodge 5-Quart Pre-Seasoned Dutch Oven specifically for this purpose:
Once the timer goes off, pour your dough directly into the hot pot, using a bowl scraper or a rubber spatula to make sure all of it goes in. Note that it won’t have much of a shape at this point:
Set your timer for another 30 minutes. If your loaf appears a little pale upon emerging from the oven, keep the lid off and return the bread to the oven for the additional 3-5 minutes, or until the loaf is browned to your liking.
Just keep in mind that, if you keep it in there for too long, the loaf might stick to the bottom of the pot and be difficult to remove. If this happens, allow it to cool in the dutch oven as the loaf will pull itself from the bottom as it cools and shrinks.
A word of caution: Your pot will become incredibly hot in the 500-degree oven, so be sure to double-up your pot holders!
Now wasn’t that simple? Give it a try and come back and tell us what you think.