The Easiest Home-Made Bread You’ll Ever Make
In the Lancaster Sunday News on August 8 we ran a piece on a fabulous Panzanella (tomato and bread salad). It occurred to me today that while the recipe is fabulous, and easy to make, what it begs for, and wasn’t mentioned in the article, was that it would be even better with a homemade bread. Now I recognize that making bread is not everyone’s cup of tea, mostly because it isn’t an easy thing to do for a novice, we have for years made a wonderful crusty white bread from a recipe published in the New York Times in November of 2006. The beauty of that bread is that it requires no kneading. Just mix the ingredients, show some patience during two rise periods, and discover the easiest bread this side of an electric bread maker, but so much better.
The Times’s recipe is great, but the results can be less than perfect and the product inconsistent if the baker varies even a tiny bit from the original recipe. There have been numerous bakers who have taken the challenge of making the bread better and easier to make. I have found one that I adore, and while it does require just a bit of kneading, it is about the best bread I know, is truly easy to make–even for a beginner–and works perfectly every time. It comes from one of my favorite cooking resources, Cook’s Illustrated (I’ve implored you several times to pony up the fee to subscribe to their web site; it’s the best cooking site on the Internet. Do give it a try), and it is the best bread match for the panzanella recipe I wrote about in August. That recipe is linked here, and is worth your time. And if you’re really ambitious, bake the bread as well. It’s a winner.
Almost No-Knead Bread
Makes 1 large round loaf. Published January 1, 2008. From Cook’s Illustrated.
An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid yields best results, but the recipe also works in a regular cast-iron Dutch oven or heavy stockpot. (See the related information in “High-Heat Baking in a Dutch Oven” for information on converting Dutch oven handles to work safely in a hot oven.) Use a mild-flavored lager, such as Budweiser (mild non-alcoholic lager also works). The bread is best eaten the day it is baked but can be wrapped in aluminum foil and stored in a cool, dry place for up to 2 days.
|3||cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional for dusting work surface|
|1/4||teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast|
|1 1/2||teaspoons table salt|
|3/4||cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature|
|1/4||cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (3 ounces)|
|1||tablespoon 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 temperature for 8 to 18 hours.
- 2. Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper 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 temperature 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 razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature 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, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.