No-Knead Artisan Bread Posted by: | April 26, 2010
 

Today marks another important event in my short cooking history. I have successfully duplicated an artisan bakery loaf. You know, those with thick, golden-brown crackling crust, with very flavorful crumbs that are light and open-holed like cheese. Normally that would require patient kneading and baking in a professional bread oven. But thanks to Jim Lahey’s innovative and groundbreaking bread recipe, now everyone can be an Artisan baker at home. Jim Lahey is the owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. In 2006, he was featured on Mark Bittman’s “The Minimalist” segment revealing this very bread recipe that soon became a sensation in the cooking & baking community. It took a few years to be noticed by me, just 2 months ago, and it’s been haunting me ever since. The idea seemed too good to be true. No kneading, no fancy ingredient or special equipment needed (not even a food processor!). All you need is a very wet dough going through slow fermentation and a ceramic pot. If you thought making a French loaf or Baguette was cool (i.e. me a week ago), think again. This is the mother of all breads. Ladies & Gentlemen, may I present to you…

Jim Lahey’s No-Work Bread (adapted from “How To Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups all purpose or bread flour (bread flour is better as it produces more chewy crumb and sturdy crust)
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups of water at 70 deg F or 20 deg (room temperature) – Remember that it’s 2 cups on the liquid measurement cup, not 2 cups of dry ingredient measurement cups.
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting as needed (I used cornmeal. Its grainy texture made the bread super crispy and rough. I love that!)

METHOD:

1. Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Stir the dry ingredients together quickly. Add the water and stir until you have a sticky, shaggy dough. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap and let the dough rest for at least 12 hours at room temperature. In Singapore weather, it is much hotter than the usual recommended “20 deg” room temperature, hence the dough will take faster to rise, as mine did. I made my dough before sleep, and woke up today to find the dough already trippled in size, bubbling like the Monster in “Monsters & Aliens”. Seriously, once the dough has risen, it looks nasty. It should be bubbly in the surface and has a very stringy texture as you move it in the bowl, called the “Gluten strings”. Now to bore everyone out, I will explain why that happens: “the long rising time will give the protein in the dough (called gluten) an environment that lets it move around and develop a distinctive elastic, weblike structure, which traps the carbon dioxide generated by the yeast as it feeds, resulting the so-called ‘rising’ ” (source: “How To Cook Everything” by M.B.). Ok, to wake up everyone, here is a picture of that nasty looking dough after 12 hours rising:

2. Lightly flour your work surface (cover the surface with clingwrap so you don’t have so much to clean later, like I did today). Remove the dough onto the surface and fold once or twice. Now if you are lucky, the dough won’t stick like crazy to the surface and your hands, and folds over easily like a normal bread dough. Well, I wasn’t. My dough was wet and sticky as hell. It was like those stuff the Aliens project on their preys to trap them. It was so messy. But I managed to somehow fold this gooey mess over and let it rest for 15 minutes under a cling wrap.

3. Sprinkle over enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, then gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball by folding up from all 4 sides. Again, this wasn’t simple for me as my dough was still sticking like glue to the surface, no matter how much flour i added. Generously coat a cotton towel with cornmeal and put the dough with its seam side down on the towel. Dust the top with more cornmeal.

4. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 2hours. When its ready, the dough will be more than doubled its size and is more puffed up, not springing back readily when poked with your finger.

5. About half an hour before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450 deg F or 230 deg C. Put a ceramic pot (with its cover) into the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, remove the blazing hot pot from the oven and turn the dough over into the pot, with the seam side up. When you drop the dough into the pot, it will still stick to your towel and your dough will probably end up quite messy in the pot, but don’t worry, it will straighten out as it bakes, as you can see with mine:

6. Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown. Remove the bread onto a cooling rack and let cool for about 30 minutes before slicing (don’t worry, the bread will not stick to the pot). If you’re wondering why we have to bake this bread in a pot, here is why: by starting this very wet dough in a hot, covered pot, you develop a crunchy, chewy, bakery-style crust thanks to the steam that forms inside the enclosed environment of the pot (which is like a steamy oven inside an oven).

And there it is… Look how beautiful it is… and it smells like heaven too!

Take a look at the thick, crispy crust, covered in oven-roasted golden cornmeal, just like a real Artisan bread:

And look at the crumb inside, so airy with holes and full of tastes and aroma thanks to the long fermentation of the yeast:

I swear I had to fight really hard to resist tearing the whole bread apart within minutes out of the oven (though it is best to eat a bread right out of the oven anyways). I am so going to make this bread often from now, and perhaps varying a bit by adding olives, garlic and substituting with whole grain flour to make healthier country loaf. I love making bread on weekends as you can leave the dough to rise overnight or over the entire day, without having to compromise on your weekend activities. And then you have a beautiful bread to eat for supper to make the weekend just perfect! You can enjoy this bread simply by dipping it with extra virgin olive oil with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. And this can serve as a really nice starter as well.

So can’t wait to explore more of the world of bread-making! Next mission: bake Pretzels.

 

5 Responses to “No-Knead Artisan Bread”

  1. Phuong Do says:

    I don’t have a ceramic pot, so can’t do this :-((

  2. Phungloi says:

    Thanks for your recipes . I can’t wait to make this bread .

  3. Phungloi says:

    Hi Chi Anh,
    I ‘d like to tell you . The bread was beautiful …..yeah…i did it . It was the first time ever i made bread . I am making other one now .
    Thank you .

    • Chi Anh says:

      Phungloi,
      That’s really great to hear! I just baked bread using No Knead method this weekend as well. Am trying out a slightly different recipe for more flavorful bread. Will share it soon! Baking bread is really therapeutic and relaxing, don’t you think? I had my fresh loaf for breakfast this morning and it’s really the best breakfast you can treat yourself with. Have fun baking and sharing your home made bread!

Leave a Reply