Thursday, May 6, 2010

No Knead Bread

Back in 2006, No Knead Bread became a huge 'thing' thanks to an article in the New York Times written by Mark Bittman about Jim Lahey. The article and technique were widely copied across the blogosphere at the time, and at some point in the past few years, I read something about it somewhere, but didn't try it out.

Then I read NYC blogger Cathy Erway's new book The Art of Eating In, chronicling TWO YEARS of almost never, really rarely, basically not at all eating out in New York. She begins the journey with bread - a foodie newbie who doesn't even know where to buy yeast - and ends up trying the infamous No Knead Bread recipe. She gives it her own twist (potato water) and enters her first loaf in a contest and wins - drawing accolades from Jeffrey Steingarten himself.

After a conversation with a coworker about the recipe, I decided to go home and give it a try using the recipe as written in Erway's book. The results were pretty great - delicious, homemade bread that took time, but little effort, to produce.

Ironically, while writing this, I suddenly realized I actually have Jim Lahey's book, My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method, on my bookshelf. My first loaf was such a success, I'm hoping to revisit Lahey's book and try other variations - along with some of my own (olive bread, anyone?) There are some surprising differences between Lahey's and Erway's versions in both volumes of ingredients and techniques - but since I tried Erway's, that's what I'll copy below.

No Knead Bread - Erway Method
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tspn active dry yeast
1 1/2 tspn salt
1 5/8 cups cool water

In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add water and stir until well blended and very sticky. Cover the bowl with a plate, and let it sit in a warm (around 70 degrees F) room for 12-18 hours. The dough is ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles.

Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle it with a little flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover with a tea towel and let rest 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball, tucking folded parts underneath. Lay down a cotton towel (though not terry cloth) and dust generously with flour or cornmeal. Place loaf seam side down on towel. Top with another towel and let rest for 2 hours. Dough should rise to twice it's size.

At least 1/2 hour before dough is ready, put a 6-8 qt heavy covered pot (like a dutch oven) into the oven, and preheat to 450 degrees F.

When dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven, dump the dough into the pot, cover, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 15 minutes - until loaf is golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

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