I know it’s been a couple years now since no-knead bread first took the food world by storm. I am no doubt behind the times for only now trying it, especially since it’s probably considered passé to some. Even so, there can be no denying that it’s a pretty fantastic discovery.
I think the reason I waited so long is I’m the sort of person who finds solace in mundane tasks. I like watching my mom vigorously mash potatoes by hand with the simple hand masher I remember her using since the time I was young, and then taking care to add the perfect combination of milk, butter, and salt, always eyeing it though, not a measuring cup or spoon in sight. Or watching my mother-in-law shape kibbeh or hollow out vegetables for mahashi for hours, working with nimble hands and a level of ease that only comes from years of practice.
Or myself in the kitchen, taking great pride and pleasure in the tedious labor of making bread the traditional way. The precision of mixing ingredients to make dough, then giving it a good knead. Watching patiently as the yeast works its magic and causes the dough to swell, and then working the dough again, feeling it transform in my hands. Letting it rest a bit longer, and then waiting impatiently as the bread bakes, its enticing aroma permeating the house. I’m somewhat of an old soul when it comes to things like that.
As far as the finished product goes, I still prefer a kneaded bread, but this is honestly pretty delicious for being no-knead and nearly instant. (I say nearly because there is the 12 to 18 hour rise time, as well as a second 30 to 45 minute rise…but the rising takes care of itself, and is really no trouble if you plan ahead.) The slightly tangy flavor of this bread is very similar to sourdough, and its texture is dense, but with a spongy quality. The first day it’s perfect as-is, or with a little butter spread on top, then after that I found it was delicious toasted or used to make grilled cheese sandwiches.
Next I’m planning to try Jim Lahey’s recipe for No-Knead Bread, as seen in The New York Times.
- 3 cups (350 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus quite a bit more for shaping the dough
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1½ cups (355 ml) lukewarm water
- Whisk together flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Add the water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. (After sitting, the dough will be sticky and sponge-like.)
- Preheat oven to 450F. Place a lidded cast iron pot or Dutch oven into the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the dough onto a very heavily floured surface, flour your hands, and shape into a ball (without kneading); sprinkle on more flour as necessary so the dough holds its shape without expanding too much. Drape the top with plastic wrap and let it rise until puffed, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Remove the hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough; cut 3 slashes across the top of the dough with a sharp knife. Cover the pot and bake the bread for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pot and place on a cooling rack to cool completely before slicing.