May 23, 2008

no knead bread...finally!

I didn't waste much time as soon as we got the cast iron dutch oven we ordered, I was ready to try this no knead bread recipe...finally. A very interesting bread recipe and technique, I've been reading about it from many internet foodies for quite sometime now and I've been very curious about it since. I watched a you tube video showing Jim Lahey (the chef who introduced and popularized it) doing a demo of his recipe which was featured in the New York Times. Many amateur or experienced bakers have successfully made this bread. Absolutely no kneading required, the procedure may be discouraging for some who may not be willing to wait 18-20 hours for a single loaf of bread. But this long overnight resting and rising time is the key to making this bread. Another crucial equipment to have is a cast iron dutch oven. We decided to get a Lodge brand traditional cast iron pot instead of the enameled version. It's important that the pot is heatproof up to 500 degrees. Most of the enameled pots I found (with the exception of the pricey but good quality Le Creuset brand) are good for up to 400 degrees only. Those neat-looking covered stone bread bakers also caught my attention but the not so good reviews mentioned flaws in the product as well as possible delivery breakage.
Lodge is still the most reliable, durable and reasonably priced brand in the cast iron pot & skillet business. We settled for a 5 quart double dutch oven (shown above). The cover, which doubles as a skillet (which will work great for cornbread), fits perfectly. I'm very happy with the result of my no knead bread baked in the Lodge dutch oven. The texture of the bread was exactly what I was hoping for, with large holes like in those rustic artisan breads I like (below).

Adapted from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery

3 cups (430 g) bread flour
1/4 tsp. (1 g) instant yeast
1 1/4 tsps. (8 g) salt
1 5/8 cups (345 g) purified water

Stir the above ingredients until combined in a non-metallic bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for 18-20 hours. The dough will be very bubbly. Turn out to a well floured surface and flatten a bit. Bring the edges of the dough to the center, then fold it over to form a ball. This is a very wet dough so the shape may not be perfect. Rest for 15 minutes. Transfer the dough to a round proofing basket lined with parchment paper evenly sprinkled with flour and cornmeal. Let rise for 2-3 hours. About 30 minutes prior to baking, preheat oven with covered cast iron pot inside to 475 to 500 degrees. Carefully lift the parchment paper holding the dough and place it in the hot pot. Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 475 to 500 degrees. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes to brown the top of the bread. When done, it will be very easy to take the bread out of the pot with the parchment paper. Let cool on a wire rack for an hour, slice and enjoy!

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