Last Christmas I asked for, and received, a bread machine. Like I did with my Barbie Dreamhouse at 5 years old, I tore into the packaging and briefly read the directions. I furiously unpacked the machine and set about measuring the ingredients before the wrapping paper hit the floor. I pushed a few buttons and stood back. It took a good eight hours for that first loaf to emerge, and another ten minutes for me to surgically remove the metal paddle from the middle of the loaf. No problem, no one will notice…until I cut into the middle of the loaf where it looks like something had gnawed its way out the bottom. Okay, let’s try another loaf. Paddle made its way into the middle again. Same with loaves 3, 4, and 5. Now the whole machine is rocking across the counter and I’m pretty sure I see sparks. Time to box it up and test the store’s return policy.
Back at home, I’m defeated. I really wanted to fill my house with the enticing aroma of fresh baked bread. I can bake, why not bread? When originally seeking recommendations for the bread machine to put on my Christmas list, a friend sent me this recipe for No Knead Crusty Bread. I tried it months ago, but killed the yeast and ended up with a frisbee shaped loaf of bread. Apparently my if-warm-is-good-scalding-hot-is-better philosophy didn’t work on yeast. So I finally tried it the other day, heating the water for only a minute. My loaf of bread was A-MAZING.
I am pasting the original recipe here, with a nod to Mother Earth News and the New York Times, with my specifics in italics, for your bread making enjoyment:
No Knead, Dutch Oven Bread
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (“Warm,” Gina, not boiling. I microwaved it for 1 minute)
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat or a combination of the two. (I used bread flour, but plan to try it with whole wheat next time. Or maybe bread flour with some chopped rosemary. Mmmm…)
1 1/2 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting (I just used more of the bread flour)
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. (I put all the ingredients into my handy dandy KitchenAid stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and let ‘er rip for about two minutes, scraping once, then mixing another three minutes, until the dough climbed the hook.) The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
- The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface (and your hands) and place (VERY STICKY) 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 it rest for about 15 minutes.
- Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. (Mine wasn’t exactly a ball; it was so sticky I just folded it a couple of times and called it good.) Generously coat a clean dish towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Put the seam side of the dough down on the towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
- At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and lift off the lid. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. The dough will lose its shape a bit in the process, but that’s OK. Give the pan a firm shake or two to help distribute the dough evenly, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect; it will straighten out as it bakes.
- Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, (I’d try 10-15, mine was pretty brown) until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.