I must have been in the equivalent of a culinary coma in late 2006 when The New York Times made popular a foolproof, no-knead bread recipe developed by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York and the recipe went viral.
At last, home cooks who were mystified by the whole process of bread-making had a recipe that involved no kneading and was so easy a child could make it.
Somehow, word of this miraculous recipe managed to escape my radar.
I learned about it recently when a friend, Jeri Scott, a principal broker at Coldwell Banker Mountain West, attended a dinner party at our home and brought us a beautifully shaped and wonderful-tasting artisan loaf that had a crispy crust as well as a moist and slightly sourdough-flavored interior. She had baked it herself using a modification of Jim Lahey’s recipe.
After tasting the bread, I proceeded to pry her for the recipe. She explained that it was very easy, with four basic ingredients: flour, water, salt, instant yeast. And it involved no kneading. Two key steps in the process give the bread its delicious quality. First is the rise time. It has to rise the first time at least 12 hours. The second is that when you bake the bread, you actually bake it in a cast-iron or ceramic covered dutch oven or pot for half an hour, and then open the lid to finish baking it. Baking the bread in a covered pot allows it to cook in its own steam, which helps it develop that wonderful artisan crust.
Armed with the recipe and a seldom-used cast-iron dutch oven, I went to work. It didn’t take too long before I was pleased enough with the results to give a loaf to the person who had graciously turned me on to this recipe.
Once you master the recipe, you can add all sorts of dried herbs and even crushed garlic to create your own rustic variations of this homemade artisan-quality bread. You’ll be hooked before long and wonder why you bought store bread in the first place.
No-Knead Rosemary Bread (adapted from Jim Lahey’s recipe)
- 3 cups (720 ml) all-purpose flour
- 1¼ teaspoon (6.25 ml) salt
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) crumbled dried rosemary
- 1 5/8 cups (385 ml) warm water
- In a large bowl, add flour, salt, yeast, rosemary and mix.
- Add water and mix until water is incorporated. The dough will be shaggy and sticky and not smooth. This is fine; don’t overmix.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 12-18 hours in a warm room. The dough will be ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles and has expanded two to three times its original volume.
- Sprinkle flour on your working surface and turn out the dough from the bowl onto the floured surface. Sprinkle some flour on the top of the dough and gently pat the surface and fold it over onto itself by folding the left and the right sides of the circle of dough to its center, then folding the top and bottom sides to the center. Grab the dough and flip it over so the seam is on the bottom.
- Get a smooth cotton cloth (not terrycloth) and sprinkle it liberally with flour so the dough will not stick to it. Place the dough ball on the cloth, seam side down, and fold the cloth over on the ball and place in another bowl. Let it rest in a warm room at least two hours.
- Place cast-iron dutch oven or other covered baking pot in a cold oven and heat to 450 °F (232 °C). When oven has reached the temperature, remove pot, flip warmed dough ball over from the cloth into the heated pot, and shake the pot to settle the dough in its center, if necessary. Cover pot and place it back in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until bread crust reaches a nice golden brown.
- Remove loaf and let cool on a rack before slicing and serving.
— Victor Panichkul