Sunday, January 20, 2013

No Knead Bread

This recipe makes enough for four 1-pound loaves and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. I use it to bake 4 crusty boules, but you could also use it for cinnamon rolls, or incorporate other ingredients (nuts, dried fruit, olives, cheese) before shaping and baking. The flavor really improves when it sits in the fridge for a couple of days. (Adapted by Kayte Young, from Cooking Club Feb/March 2011) 
Total preparation time: 3 ½ hours, plus at least a half hour to cool. Most of that time is hands-off, so you can do other things.

3 ½ cups lukewarm water
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 teaspoons salt
5 cups unbleached all purpose flour (or white bread flour)
2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
1.     Combine water yeast and salt in a large bowl. With spoon (or mixer with paddle attachment) stir in flour (dough will be wet).
2.     Place dough in 5-quart lidded container; cover with lid (do not snap airtight). Let rise at room temperature 2 hours. Refrigerate overnight or up to 14 days, or go ahead and bake a loaf, and put the rest in the fridge to bake at your convenience.
     To Bake a Crusty Boule (a small, round, free-form loaf)
Take 1 lb (grapefruit sized) portion of dough from the Master Recipe (above)
1.     Hold dough and dust top with flour; quickly shape into ball by stretching surface of dough around to bottom on all four sides, rotating a quarter turn as you go (pinch the dough at the bottom). The dough may feel wet, and not easy to handle, but you don’t need to handle it much. Just shape as quickly as you can, creating a nice tight surface on top (without tearing the dough). Don’t worry too much about how round it is, it will look lovely and rustic, whatever shape it ends up.  Just try to resist the urge to add a lot of flour and knead it. You want to preserve the nice pockets of air that are already in the dough.
2.     Place the dough on a pizza peel or baking sheet, sprinkled liberally with cornmeal or lined with parchment (I use parchment, sprinkled with cornmeal). Cover loosely with lightly floured plastic wrap. Let stand in warm, draft free place for 1-2 hours, or until dough is slightly puffed and no longer chilled. If you are taking dough from the fridge, this will take at least 2 hours.
3.     Thirty minutes before baking, place a baking stone (or a cookie sheet) on center oven rack; place an empty broiler pan on the bottom oven rack. Heat oven to 450 F
4.     Dust the loaf with flour or brush the top with a little water and sprinkle (heavily) with sesame seeds (or other small seeds). With a thin, sharp knife or blade (straight razor is best, but a sharp paring knife will work) make 3 or more slashes in the top of the loaf. Try to get them at least ¼ inch deep. You are giving the air a place to go when the extreme heat hits it. If you don’t do this, the loaf will “blow out” somewhere else (which is fine, but may not look the way you hoped it would).
5.     Heat 1 cup of water to boiling. Slide the loaf onto the baking stone or cookie sheet (this is easy with parchment paper--don’t remove the paper, but make sure it is cut small, so it doesn’t flap over the bread). Quickly pour the hot water in the broiler pan (don’t have your face right over it!) and shut the oven door. Do these two things quickly, and shut the door in between, if needed, to avoid losing too much oven heat. You want the dough to receive a blast of extreme heat and steam. This helps with the rise, and also makes a crisp crust.
6.     Bake 30 minutes or until deep golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on bottom (I always use my instant-read thermometer to make sure the interior has reached 205 F). Cool completely on a wire wrack. The bread continues to bake a bit after it comes out, so resist the urge to cut right into it. Let it cool for at least 30 min. Store in a paper bag the first day, then store in a sealed container or plastic bag (if there is any left the second day J).

Note. The loaf may seem a bit small. If you need more bread, make two loaves rather than trying to make one big one. This particular recipe works best with small loaves.

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