Friends, I am dead serious. I am here to share with you the no-knead bread baking secret that will change your life forever. Never again will you buy a store-manufactured boule, made with god knows what extra ingredients and preservatives.
All it takes is four simple ingredients, and about 5 minutes of “hands-on” work time… and for a mere fraction of the cost of store-bought loaves, you’ll be drowning in the intoxication of freshly baked, home made bread that will have you questioning: “why buy, when I can bake?”
Your friends will envy you. Your spouse and children will worship you. You will rise to legendary domestic goddess status among all who come dine at your home or receive a loaf as a gift. It’s crusty. It’s chewy. It’s delicious.
Prepare, people. There is no going back from here.
Granted, there is a lot of down time. So, patience is necessary. But trust me, while there may be 10 or so steps to follow, the effort you’ll actually put in is so minimal, you’ll be shocked at how foolproof and simple the process is.
What you’ll need:
- 3 cups unbleached white flour (I use high quality flours like Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur, or Trader Joes private label (which is exactly Bob’s Red Mill, at a fraction of the cost.)
- 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast (Food 4 Less has the best deal in town)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
What you do:
- Gently mix together your flour and salt in a decently-sized bowl. I use a Le Crueset
- Mix your yeast into the water, and add the yeasted water to your dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated with a wooden spoon. Your dough will look a hot, shaggy mess, but it will become clear that it’s done all the “coming together” it’s going to do.
- ***The above steps should take about 2.5 minutes total***
- Cover your mixing bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap and leave in a secure place on a counter top, preferably where the temperature is stable, for the next 12-18 (or more) hours. After 12-18ish hours have passed, your dough will have risen at least by double, and be sort of bubbly and smell amazingly yeasty-fermenty-bready. (that’s a technical term.)
- Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface
- Fold the dough over on itself a couple of times, gently pressing it down each time to remove excess air bubbles. Cover with the plastic wrap and let sit about 15 minutes *This step is optional. If you’re pressed for time, just skip this step and go straight to step 7. Your bread may just be a bit “airier” if you skip it. Still delish.*
- With wet hands (which, rather than floured hands, helps preserve the flour/water balance) fold the edges of the dough inward to the center, helping the dough find its way into a ball-shape with a smooth upper surface. Plop it into a parchment-lined 9-10″ bowl, (or wooden Banneton Basket, if you’re a baller like me). Cover, and let sit for 2 more hours.
- 30 minutes before your dough is done resting, pre-heat your oven with your cooking vessel in it to 450 degrees. I get my best results using a Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven and Casserole Cooker (which is super affordable), but you can use a Le Creuset, pyrex, or similar heavy, covered if you prefer. Preheating your vessel is crucial, so don’t forget.
- Once the dough is ready, lift the parchment paper with the dough in it, and place it into your dutch oven. (If you’re not using parchment, just plop the dough in, naked.) Give it a jiggle so the dough relaxes into the base of the vessel.
- Cover, and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the cover and allow it to continue for 15-20 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when it’s golden and crusty, and the bread has a bit of a hollow sound when you gently tap or knock on it.
Then voila! You’re done! Gently lift the bread out of the pot, so it stops cooking, and try and patiently let it cool enough to handle before cutting into it. Then slice it up, and savor that warm, fresh-baked flavor and crusty, chewy texture. Good luck not eating the whole loaf right there and then! But while you do, practice your humblest expressions of thanks, in anticipation of all the praise you will soon be receiving from your loved ones!