Yes, you read that right, this bread took 18 hours to make. Now before you get all “this chic is a crazy person” or “who in their right mind has that kind of time?” it was not an 18 hour labor-intensive bread. Honestly, I probably have about 45 minutes of total work time invested. For the most part it sat around doing its thing, while I went ahead and did mine!
I’m a bit intimidated by what really goes into making true artisan bread. I’ve been coveting this book for some time now. I mean the love, the commitment, the skill. It’s a bit overwhelming and don’t even get me started on the science behind it all!
I decided the time had come for me to take this challenge on. I wanted to start out slow instead of diving into the deep end, getting way in over my head and failing miserably. That is how I ended up finding this no-knead recipe. I was a bit skeptical that these four little ingredients would result in such a beautiful outcome, but I was ready to give it a whirl.
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (I used 1 1/2 cups of each)
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed. (I used oat bran)
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. 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 it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 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.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if 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 loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
I could not have asked for better results. The crust was crispy and beautifully browned; the inside had a light and chewy texture with perfect little pockets of air!