But bread? Oh boy. Bread.
For some reason, bread has always scared me. I made up excuses -- it's too messy, too time-consuming, too difficult. But then I saw the recipe for Mark Bittman's No-Knead Bread. That's right, No-Knead bread. The recipe didn't involve any kneading, fancy ingredients, or special equipment. I literally threw flour, water, and yeast in a bowl, and just left it alone.
And this is what it made:
Holy cannoli, right?
The recipe promised an artisan bakery loaf with a "crackling crust, open-holed crumb, light texture, and fantastic flavor". And boy, was it right:
The bread had a golden, delicious crust with a soft and chewy inside. The flavor was incredibly yeasty and went beautifully with a pat of butter. Tearing into the bread a few minutes after I pulled it out the oven, I felt like I was eating the bread that fancy restaurants give you before a meal.
This was the perfect recipe to conquer my fear of baking bread.
I don't really know why I've feared the bread making process for so long -- at the end of the day, it's just flour, water, and yeast. Part of the reason why I was scared was because I only started become a serious baker in a high-altitude environment -- although I understood the science behind pastry leaveners like baking soda and baking powder, yeast seemed like a completely different animal. One I wasn't quite ready to conquer in Denver.
But now that I'm in Portland, there's no excuse. This is the first of many bread recipes I hope to try -- get excited! And for you pastry bakers afraid of baking bread, believe me. This one's a doozy. Welcome to a new frontier.
(Adapted from the online version)
- plastic wrap
- 2 cotton towels (not terry cloth; I recommend old-fashioned flour sack towels)
- one 6- to 8- quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic; I used my roommate's cast iron Dutch oven)
For the Bread:
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/4 teaspoon instant rapid rise yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 5/8 cups water, at about 120 (F)
- In a large bowl, combine 3 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and use your hand to quickly stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest for at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at a warm room temperature of 70 degrees. If your house is a little colder, the dough might need a few more hours.
- The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
- Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface and your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a non-terry cloth cotton towel with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for another 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.
- At least half an hour before the dough is ready, put your 6- to 8-quarter heavy covered pot in the oven. Preheat the oven (with the pot inside) to 450 (F) degrees. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from the oven -- WATCH OUT. THE POT IS VERY HOT AT THIS POINT. Slide your hand under the towel and turn dough over into the pot, seam side up. It may look like a mess, but that's okay. Shake pan once or twice if the 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 the loaf is beautifully browned. Use a spatula or tongs to remove the bread from the pan and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.