Saturday, January 16, 2016

No Knead Crusty Bread

Before I found this recipe most of my fresh bread making was limited to weekends. Between the kneading, rising and baking the time investment usually meant breadless weeknight meals. This recipe changed all that. Why do I love it so?

It comes together fast: I just mix up the ingredients in my stand mixture and transfer to a rising tub. No kneading required.

You can leave it in the fridge until you're ready to use it: The dough can sit...wait for it... seven days in the fridge. It will rise and fall. Don't worry! Just enjoy the 3-4 loaves of fresh bread each week.

It tastes good: I've made this bread a lot and it always turns out well - crackly crust, nice crumb and depending on how long it's been in the fridge, a sour tang. I sometimes swap out some of the all-purpose for whole wheat flour for a nutty flavor.

I can make different sized loaves: Since it's just the two of us, I like a smaller loaf that we'll eat in a day, rather than a larger loaf that can go stale. I mean, I'll just bake another loaf the next day. That's right fresh bread every day!!

When you're ready to bake bread, just pull a hunk of dough from the bowl, shape into a loaf, let rise for an hour and bake. Easy peasy.

Mix the ingredients. The dough will be wetter than traditional bread dough.

Place dough (without kneading) into a bowl to rise. I use a plastic bucket with a lid.

I was in a hurry, so this dough was refrigerated for
 only two hours. As you can see it nearly doubled in bulk.

The risen dough will be a bit drier, but still sticky. Remove
1/4 to 1/3 from the bowl and form into a loaf. Return
the rest of the dough to the fridge for later use.

I make round loaves. Place the formed dough onto parchment.
This enables you easily slide it onto the hot bread stone. 
If you don't use a stone, place formed dough onto a sheet pan. 

Let the dough rise for one hour. Make two 1/2 inch cuts before baking.

While bread is rising, preheat oven and stone. I use a pizza steel, similar to a stone.
Heat an oven-safe pan along with the stone. When you're ready to bake, add a cup
 of water to the pan. The resulting steam will create a crispy, crackly crust.

Bake until deep brown, 25-35 minutes.

Look at that crust!! 

Nice crumb. Great for paninis, garlic bread, toast and sopping up soup and sauces.

Or just add butter!

No Knead Crusty Bread
From King Arthur Flour
3 cups lukewarm water
7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (32 oz by weight)
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant or active dry yeast

Note: The flour/liquid ratio is important in this recipe. Measure flour by sprinkling it into your measuring cup, then gently sweeping off the excess. Most accurate of all, and guaranteed to give you the best results, measure flour by weight: use 32 ounces.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don't have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a big spoon or dough whisk till everything is combined.

Transfer dough rise to a large greased bowl. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. (If you're pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it'll get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it'll rise, then fall. That's OK; that's what it's supposed to do.

When you're ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough — a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It'll be about the size of a softball, or a large grapefruit.

Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball, or a longer log. Don't fuss around trying to make it perfect; just do the best you can. Place the loaf on a piece of parchment (if you're going to use a baking stone); or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the bread moist as it rests before baking.

Let the loaf warm to room temperature and rise; this should take about 60 minutes (or longer, up to a couple of hours, if your house is cool). It won't appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it'll seem to settle and expand. Preheat your oven (and baking stone, if you're using one) to 450°F while the loaf rests. Place a shallow metal or cast iron pan (not glass, Pyrex, or ceramic) on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go.

When you're ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2" deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that's OK, it'll pick right up in the hot oven. Place the bread in the oven, and carefully pour the 1 cup hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It'll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly. Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it's a deep, golden brown. Cool and slice.

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