I finally decided to try this "no-knead" bread of New York Times/Williams Sonoma/Mark Bittman (The Minimalist) fame. I have heard a lot of good things about it and I love real bread (as opposed to that crap they try to sell you in plastic bags at Stop and Shop–my apologies, France). So this weekend right before The Snow Dump of '09 East Coast Edition, I picked up some fresh rosemary and yeast and got to work.
Here is the recipe, as reproduced in the NYT and in the Williams Sonoma catalog trying to market their beautiful Le Creuset cast-iron cookware. It is an adaptation of Jim Lahey's recipe from the Sullivan Street Bakery.
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 5/8 cups water
cornmeal as needed
Then you add things as you like. I used about 2 tsp of chopped fresh rosemary in one loaf. I hand picked off all the rosemary needles from the wood stalk. And about 4 drained chopped whole peeled tomatoes for the other loaf. They both came out delicious.
The dough is super easy, and you just stir it in a bowl with a wooden spoon. I don't have amazing Le Creuset cookware (covet) but I do have Pyrex glass dishes with covers and I have some "French white" bakeware. You have to let the dough rise overnight, which I did in two big metal bowls in the oven. They rose for about 16 hours and they were nice a bubbly. What I did was preheat the oven to the lowest setting possible, about 170F. Then I turned the heat off, made the bread, and then placed the dough in, covered with plastic wrap. This was so they could rise in a nice warm environment that would cool slowly overnight.
This is followed by some folding and resting, 15 minutes. Then it is shaped and I dusted them with a combo of cornmeal and flour. They are they placed on flat cloth (not towels, nothing that will shed) and you let them rise for 2 hours. I actually probably let them rise for about 3 hours, because that's how long I was outside shoveling the snow.
Preheat the oven to 450F, placing whatever bakeware you are using inside to heat up for 30 minutes. You then just plop your bread into the warmed cookware and then bake with a cover for 30 minutes, then bake for another 30 minutes with the cover off. I baked tiny tomato buns for 50 minutes total without covering them and they came out great. But I also baked them close to the door, so away from the really high heat in the back of my oven.
The tomato bread rose a lot more because it had a little more yeast and it had a lot more moisture because of the tomato. I made the extra buns because the tomato dough had so much more volume.
I added a little bit more salt than the recipe called for, but I think the best would be 1.5 tsp. I like my bread a little more salty, but that's a personal preference. The tomato bread is amazing just on it's own, but I made a grilled cheese with the rosemary bread and it was redonk. I ate it way too fast before I even thought of photographing it. Sorry. Here are some more pictures of the rosemary loaf though.
Making bread in general is very time consuming and work heavy, but this particular recipe is the most simple with the best results. It still takes a while, so it's a good weekend project. If you want to attempt bread making for the first time, this is probably the best thing to start with. We have a "bread maker" too but, these machines tend to knead way too much and the holes come out so uniform and the bread is generally really tasteless. You will never get rustic artisan bread from your bread maker. I love that crusty bread with soft yeasty insides–just not possible with a machine. Also, if you make fresh bread in your oven your kitchen will smell amazing. Nothing like eating fresh warm bread while there's a shit ton of snow falling from the sky.
Look at those irregular holes!!! Thank you, yeast. Delish.
One day, I like to imagine that I will make real bread, with a yeast starter and kneading and all that jazz, but it's a lot of work. I even have bread books!! BOOKS, people. From someone who doesn't love cookbooks, this is big. This no-knead bread is super easy and accessible on a weekly/month basis so I think I'm going to experiment with more flavors. Parmesan and black pepper, anyone? Hells yes.