15 August 2012

No-knead bread by Rowhouse Livin'

It's been almost six years since the NYT published Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe. It's been over three years since I started making it myself on a regular basis, and almost a full year since I last bought a loaf of sandwich bread from the grocery store.

We eat a lot of bread in our household. Nobody has a gluten intolerance or allergy, and we haven't seen a need to try a low-carbohydrate diet. Between toast with our breakfasts and sandwiches in our sack lunches, during the school year my daughter and I use about eight slices of bread per day. Being a hippie, I want to use whole-wheat bread while avoiding high-fructose corn syrup and scary-sounding chemicals. Being a penny-pincher, I want to maximize the hippie-ness of the bread I buy while minimizing its price. So what to do when the cheapest whole-wheat bread I can find still has HFCS and smells funny because of the dough conditioners and raising agents? Hint: it's cheap to make from scratch. Recipe and eight illustrative photos after the jump:

Recipe: Note: I like a dense bread with about 2/3 whole-wheat flour. Try changing the ratio to suit your household's taste. Combine 2 cups whole-wheat flour, 1 cup white flour, 1/4 cup wheat berries, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast. Add 1 cup of very warm water and stir into a stiff dough; add more if needed, but avoid obtaining a wet dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise and ferment 18 to 24 hours. (Or refrigerate after 18 hours, then remove from the fridge and let warm up a little before continuing.) You can keep it in any kind of vessel you like, whether a bowl or crock or old saucepan:

Not attractive; looks kind of like biscuit dough; NOTE: do not
cook on the stove! I put it here for photograph purposes only

The dough will expand, bubble, and become wetter as it ferments:

About 22 hours later; again, on stove for photograph purposes only

At the end of the 18 to 24 hours, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a board dusted with whole-wheat or white flour:

I use a silicone scraper and try not to get grossed out at the appearance

Fold it over itself a few times and form into a ball. Let rest 15 minutes:

Best to leave it lightly covered in plastic wrap; I re-use
the wrap from the fermenting stage, above

Place the ball, seam side down, into a bowl or banneton lined with a woven cloth dusted with whole-wheat or white flour. Cover and let rest 1 or 2 hours, depending on the house's ambient temperature and humidity. You'll get a better feel for what you need as you make more loaves, but rest assured that the bread will be edible even if the dough ends up being too wet after resting:

Anything in cotton, linen, polyester, or poly-cotton works, so long as it's not terrycloth.
Don't leave it uncovered like this, though. Fold the cloth over to cover

In the meantime, pre-heat oven, with a large covered pot in it, to 475 degrees F, noting that most ovens will take a good 45 minutes to get up to that temperature. Place dough into pot, seam side up. (Optional: slash a square or diamond shape into the top of the dough with a sharp knife or lame):

Abe Lincoln's cast iron dutch oven: it's had its lid replaced
three times and its base replaced twice

Bake, covered, for 30 minutes at 450 degrees F. Remove the lid and continue to bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F. Remove to a wire rack:

How I remove the bread from the pot is left as an
exercise for the reader
and cool thoroughly before slicing and storing:

I generally get a dozen useful slices, two ends, and
one or two oddball slices in each loaf
My routine it to mix the dough at night after dinner, and then start the baking steps when we get home from work and school the next day. The result is a sturdy boule in the style of a French pain de campagne. Enjoy!

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