Anyway, this bread is so easy to make and, while it's a long time from start to finish, it really is only about 10 minutes of ACTUAL work. And boy oh boy does it taste good. It usually only lasts a few days around here. It's fantastic for rustic sandwiches, paninis, toast, and just a nice crusty snack. I'm sure it would be great for French toast, too, although I haven't yet tried it. After the recipe, I'll give some suggestions for variations that we've tried.
Some additional notes: For this recipe, you will need a good heavy covered pot. We use a 4.5 qt enamel-coated cast iron Dutch oven from KitchenAid (although the 3.5 qt size actually works better, but the 4.5 qt is a perfect size for pasta for two, and I, uh, broke our 3.5 qt...). The pot from KitchenAid is a better option than the Le Creuset because the handle on the KA is silicone rather than plastic, so holds up to higher temperatures than the LC handle. And since this bread needs to be baked at 475 F, well, holding up to high heat is important. If you don't have a KA Dutch oven and don't want to go spend $60 just so you can bake bread (and who can blame you?), the original recipe also suggests a regular cast iron pot, Pyrex (although the company strongly encourages you to NOT heat their products empty, so perhaps not a good choice after all), or ceramic pot. As long as it has a lid and can be heated to 475 F in the oven, you're go to go.
This recipe also calls for a 4-hour rise time. Which is great, because you can spend the 5 minutes mixing up the dough then just walk away for 4 hours. To rise bread, the dough needs to be in a bowl several times larger than the dough (we use a 4 qt bowl that works perfectly) to allow room to rise. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place the covered bowl in a warm, non-drafty place. Some examples that we use include inside the microwave, inside the oven (no heat. But you can turn on the light to warm it up a bit; my mom uses this technique, but our light gets far too hot for this.), on top of the dryer in our tiny laundry closet (literally a closet in our kitchen), or in front of a sunny window.
Best No-Knead Bread
3 cups bread flour (make sure it's bread flour, it has a higher gluten content than All-Purpose, which will help the bread stand up better)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup warm water
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) Active-Dry Yeast
Vegetable oil as necessary
Measure your warm water. The temperature should not be HOT but warmer than room temperature (if you have a kitchen thermometer, try to get the temp between 110-115 F). Add your yeast and gently stir just until all of the yeast is wet. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the bread flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture to the flour-salt mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir and mix the ingredients until they all come together. You may end up with just a bit of dry flour on the bottom of the bowl, that's ok. Once your dough is mixed, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, non-drafty place to rise for 4 hours and walk away.
Once the bread has finished rising (you should be able to gently poke the dough with two fingers and the dough will spring back), oil your hands and fold over the dough a few times to release some of the air. Re-cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest for another 30 minutes. While the dough rests, place a heavy covered pot and lid in the oven and preheat to 475 F.
Once the bread has finished resting and the oven is pre-heated, remove the pot, oil your hands and carefully transfer the dough to the pot. Re-cover and bake at 475 F for 30 minutes. Then, remove the lid from the pot and bake for another 5-15 minutes (our oven takes about 5, but yours may take more time) until the top of the bread is a gorgeous golden-brown.
Remove the pot from the oven and carefully turn out the bread onto a cooling rack. Allow your delicious artisanal bread to cool for an hour before cutting into it! Serve warm with butter.
Some variations to try:
We have tried several variations on this bread, and have several others that we WANT to try.
- As my mom pointed out (and I originally forgot to include!), this bread is even better as whole wheat. She replaces half of the bread flour with whole wheat flour, but we find this to be too big of a substitution in the South Florida humidity (the bread gets super dense), so we substitute up to 1 cup of whole wheat flour.
- Mix in 1/2 cup of raisins
- Mix in 1/2 cup chopped nuts (can be used in combo with the raisins)
- Mix in a couple tablespoons of sesame seeds. Dust the top of the dough with sesame seeds right before you put it in the oven.
- Use poppy seeds instead of sesame seeds (my fiance likes this one a lot)
- Rosemary and olive oil
- Roughly chop roasted garlic cloves and mix in (or use whole cloves!)
- Kalamata olives