Make Your Own Artisan Bread
In the Dec 2007/Jan 2008 issue of Mother Earth News is a wonderful article on making your own easy, no knead crusty bread. Yes, you heard me correctly, no kneading! I love homemade bread, but I hate the icky, sticky kneading process. Plus I'm always paralyzed by not knowing if I've truly kneaded the dough long enough, too long, too much/too little flour, etc. That's right, I'm bread challenged. However, I've tried this recipe twice now (once following directions somewhat, once not even close) and it turned out great both times.
The secret is wet dough baked in a dutch oven, which allows the moisture to be retained, giving the bread its crispy crust and its chewy interior.
It's easy, but it isn't fast. The dough should be set to rise for a minium of 8 hours and more like 12-18 hours is the ideal. However, I baked the loaf above after only letting it rise for eight hours, and it was wonderful.
As you can see, the crumb is great and so is the flavor and texture. The recipe calls for a 6-7 quart dutch oven. Since it's only the two of us, we have a 3 quart. I simply divided the dough in half and baked two smaller loaves. It worked just fine. This is a very forgiving recipe as I'm sure all of you who have been baking bread for years are aware.
Here are the basic instructions, to read more, visit www.motherearthnews.com.
No Knead, Dutch Oven Bread
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat or a combination of the two.
1-1/2 tsp. salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the flour and salt and stir until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest at least 8 hours or better yet, 12-18 hours at warm room temperature.
The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle dough with a bit of flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. Coat a cotton dishtowel generously 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 clean towel and let rise for one or two hours until doubled in size. Make sure the dough does not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
At least 20 minutes before dough is ready, place covered Dutch oven in your oven and set heat at 475 degrees F. (Dutch oven may be cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic) When dough is ready, carefully remove Dutch 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 okay. 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 in the end.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid (careful, the steam is hot!) and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing.
Yield: One 1 1/2 pound loaf (or two smaller ones if using a 3 quart oven)
Adapted from the New York Times