So after all of the lovely eating that we were doing in the days leading up to Christmas, we were running low on some kitchen essentials, like bread. Louis went to the store the day after Christmas to replenish our stocks, but it seems that the bakeries decided to take a holiday as well. There was not one loaf of bread on the shelves! I suppose in a way this was quite fortuitous because we took this as the perfect opportunity to make the famed No Knead Bread. It may be easy, but it does take some time. You quickly mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and then let it rise in a warm spot for 12-18 hours. You end up with something that is definitely alive.
The bread is baked in a pot that has been preheated in a 450-500F oven. Baking the bread with a lid on the pot for the first 30 minutes has the same effect as injecting steam into the oven and results in a very crispy crust.
I have to say, this was by far the best homemade bread I've had. The interior is incredibly moist and chewy, and the crust is crispy, not hard like that on most other homemade breads I've had. And it was even better with some artisan salted butter that I got to go in my cute little butter pot.
This bread made for some pretty fantastic french toast as well...
Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread:
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (we prefer bread flour)
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
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 (I think 500F is better). 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.