Baking Bread

One of the things I loved most about our extended stay in Europe was the bread. Lunch almost every day consisted of a fresh baguette, a triangle of brie, some tomatoes or fruit, and a bottle of local wine. This dreamy meal would run us well under a dollar each. Sadly, buying bread even remotely close here in the states is an expensive and often unsatisfying endeavor, and especially frustrating to someone who is trying desperately to become more self-sufficient. I remember my mother baking french bread when I was a child (she also lived in France for a while) and I equally remember her lament that it was never the same, and it must be something to do with the flours. While that is probably true, I’ve been hearing such incredible success stories from people who have tried this no-knead bread that I am dying to give it a try. I’ve been searching to no avail at secondhand shops for a decent Dutch Oven, but both Ikea and Target have come out with their own reasonably priced versions, so I might just have to give in and buy new. I wonder how many loaves I have to make before I pay for the pan?

creative commons photo by fuzuoko

Have you tried No-Knead Bread? How did it work for you? What sort of pan are you using? How’s the Ikea one really hold up? It seems more readily available than the elusive Target Chefmate.

Easy 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

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. Generously coat a clean dish towel 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 towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the 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 OK. 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 as it bakes.
5. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid 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 1 hour before slicing.


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