Raise your hand if you love bread. My hand is raised. Raise your hand if you're tired of paying $$ for crusty bread. My hand is raised. I buy crusty bread on a weekly basis, probably about $4 for 12 to 16 ounces. The breads I choose are on the less expensive side too. I could easily spend $5 or $6 loaf.
Why not make my own bread, you may think? Who doesn't love the smell of freshly made bread. It's wonderful. What stops me? Not kneading. I find kneading therapeutic. I'm, however, NOT a fan of the first and second rise. Who has time? I guess there is time, sometimes, BUT then I feel stuck at home or if I'm out and about then I feel like I have to rush home to complete the requisite steps. I don't like feeling controlled by bread or bread making.
Last year, may be two years ago, I saw Mark Bittman's No Knead Bread in the New York Times A recipe in which I could be away for hours at a time and still make bread. A win-win. I worked backwards from when I wanted the bread to pop out of the oven and put together the dough. 20 hours later, I had a thin burnt loaf. The parts that weren't burnt were tasty but I was not impressed enough to try again until today.
As you may recall, I spent a ridiculous sum on a Cook's Illustrated magazine a few months ago. To make it pay off, I've slowly but surely going through the vegetarian recipes, one of which is this Almost No Knead Bread, which improves up on the Bittman recipe. The recipe was without problems but I was not. After picking up all the ingredients and making the dough, I realized within 30 minutes that I had made a critical error, I used active dry and NOT instant yeast. A quick on line search suggested my bread would not succeed. Was I irritated with myself? You better believe it. 2 hours later after running around to find instant yeast (stores should sell it larger quantities than those dinky packets!) I had my precious dough.
18 hours later at 8 AM I kneaded it. 2 hours later I popped my baby into the oven. 50 minutes later it came out, round gorgeous perfection if I do say so myself. Now I'm waiting for it to cool down so that I can eat it, another 2 hours. Will report back later on flavor.
Are there are almost no knead recipes that incorporate other types of flour and/or ingredients like nuts, olives etc.
-3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
-1/4 tsp INSTANT yeast
-1 1/2 tsp table salt
-3/4 c plus 2 T water, at room temp.
-1/4 c plus 2 T mild-flavored lager (Budweiser was recommended; stronger tasting beers will make the bread taste like beer)
-1 T white vinegar
1. Whisk flour, yeast and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp for 8 to 18 hours (I waited 18).
2. Lay 18 by 12-inch sheet of parchment inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temp until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.
3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6 to 8 quart heavy bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough, and using sharp knife, make one 6-inch long, 1/2-inch deep slit a long top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot. (Let excess parchment hang over pot edge.) Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temp to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees (I don't have this, so I didn't do this), 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
4. To store, wrap bread tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil; freeze for up to 1 month.
5. To serve, remove foil and plastic wrap, rewrap with foil, and defrost at room temp for 2 hours. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Back foil-wrapped bread on baking sheet until heated through, about 15 minutes. Serve.