Wednesday, April 15, 2009

recipe-a-week #14: the best bread, ever.

This bread is hands-down the best bread I have ever eaten. Seriously. And I made it! (I'm as surprised as you.) It's chewy and crusty and airy and perfect. Oh, so crusty! And of course, it's a great vehicle for butter - my first requirement for good bread.

I'm always hesitant to try the latest cooking trend, which is why it's taken me so long to get around to trying this. It's along the lines of the 5-minute artisan bread, which apparently became popular after it was written about in the New York Times. I should have tried it much, much sooner. It's been a part of my weekend routine for the past few weeks - two minutes on Saturday afternoon, a bit of attention on Sunday morning, and it's ready for lunch. Leftover pieces make amazing garlic bread, too.

I found the recipe in Mother Earth News, and you can find the original here. You use a Dutch oven to bake it in, which helps to give it the perfect crust. "Holy yum," as Ingrid would say.

No Knead, Dutch Oven Bread

1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat or a combination of the two.
1 1/2 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
  2. The 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 it rest for about 15 minutes.
  3. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. Generously coat a clean dish towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Put the seam side of the dough down on the towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and lift off the lid. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. The dough will lose its shape a bit in the process, but that’s OK. Give the pan a firm shake or two to help distribute the dough evenly, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  5. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.
Really, you need to make this one. Like the tarragon chicken from last week. Did anyone try that recipe? Did you love it as much as I did? Let me know how you like this one!

Edited to add: I wanted to share some bread trials for the best recipe ever with you. I tried making it with half spelt flour last week, and it turned out pretty well. The dough is quite runny and a little bit difficult to manoeuvre, but the bread turns out well. Nice and crusty, and the bread itself is a little bit sticky to the touch. I think I might try with 2 cups white, and 1 cup spelt next time, to see if that helps with the dough consistency. Right now, I have a loaf on the go with 2 cups white, and 1 cup whole wheat. It looks terrific!


Vickie LeBlanc said...

I've been baking that bread for the past year (off and on) because I also love, love, love Rhonda Jean's bread recipe over at Down to Earth.

Petra said...

I made this many times and it is definitely our favourite! We use half spelt flour - just an idea ;)

Anonymous said...

I actually have been making this bread ever since I read it in Mother Earth News. I've printed up the one from NY Times, but haven't tried that yet. I also haven't tried the version that uses the dutch oven, but the regular version is much loved as it has a slight tang of a very mild sourdough to its flavor.

The Schneldales said...

How smart is that! For years I made my own artisan breads and constantly struggled with the humidity in my oven. I tried putting a pan of water in with the bread, opening the oven periodically and spritzing with water ... Ah, a dutch oven! How smart is that!

Now, to find a dutch oven ...

The Wool Fairy said...

Oh wow! This looks amazing. I need to try it this weekend. I am a disaster when it comes to bread so it should be interesting.

I did drop you an email back the other night. Just thought I would mention in case it went to junk mail again. (:

Enjoy the weekend.

Anonymous said...

If you have time to answer this, Sherrie, can you tell me how much of a pain it is to take the bread out of the dutch oven? I can barely lift the cast iron pan on its own, let alone flip it upside down to get the bread out...hence my using the baking stone version instead. Thanks!

sherrieg said...

Teresa - it pops right out; I don't even flip it over. I just kind of pry one edge up with a bread knife and pick it up and out of the dutch oven, if that makes sense. :)