Mark Bittman's No Knead Bread
Now that I am training for a half marathon, I feel like I have the privilege to load up on carbohydrates every chance I get (in reality : you don't really need to load up on carbs 6 weeks before your race). But I went ahead and did it anyways. In an ideal world, I picture myself baking an artisan bread with beautiful scoring every week but since it requires baking skills, forethought and tinkering with the yeast, I instantly shy away and settle in with mediocre loaves from the store. Also, it makes me angry to think why does the bread from store contain anything else other than flour, yeast, salt, and water? This weekend though I planned ahead and made 'Mark Bittman's No Knead Bread' which everyone swears by...and now I do too. It makes an artisan style loaf with a light texture, amazing flavor, and crackling crust!
I followed the recipe from NY Times (2008) but the recipe actually is a brainchild of Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery who created a minimalist technique to bread baking for anyone without a special equipment. The recipe requires 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) however, since I don't have either, I used cast iron skillet and covered it with aluminum foil while baking. That explains the wide and comparatively thinner bread but this method worked well for me. This 'no knead' bread recipe is seriously very straight-forward and requires nothing but a little bit of planning and a lot of wait time. You will want to give about 24 hours before you plan to eat it because initially the dough sits around to rise for 12-18 hours then 15 minutes to rest before the final proofing (this helps shape the dough) and 1.5-2 hours for final proofing before baking. The dough after mixing will feel wet but don't worry, it is supposed to be that way. The wetness of the dough and the long rising time will allow the gluten molecule to create long strands for an elastic bread without having to knead. The high moisture helps create a crackly crust as it provides steam from its own moisture while it bakes inside a covered pot.
Since the dough is wet, make sure the work surface and your hand is liberally floured to prevent them from sticking but other than that, the dough is very pliable and easy to work with. Before letting it rest for 15 minutes, I lightly flattened it then folded it twice (do not knead) and covered it loosely with a plastic wrap.
The dough is then transferred to a towel with cornmeal to prevent sticking. I allowed the dough to do final rise on the towel itself rather than covering with another towel or plastic wrap as suggested. Like I mentioned earlier, I allowed the cast iron skillet to preheat for 25-30 minutes and baked the bread covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for 12-15 minutes. And voila, you have an artisan bakery loaf, with a crackling crust, light texture, chewy and open-hole with fantastic flavor.
Make sure you let the bread to rest for 30 minutes and use a sharp, serrated knife to slice the loaf. It yields 1 - 1.5 lbs loaf which is a lot of bread.. I ate the bread straight up, toasted with pears and some ficoco, and with some soup (I will share the soup recipe soon).
I stored the remaining bread wrapped tightly in a plastic wrap and covered it with a towel in a dark, cool place (inside a pantry). If you are looking to make a fresh loaf of bread at home, I highly encourage you to give Mark Bittman's No Knead Bread a try. If you have tried this recipe in the past, I'd love to hear your thoughts/suggestions on that as well. For the recipe I used - try Mark Bittman's No Knead Bread.
For Jim Lahey's No-Work Bread (which is a little different than the one I used) - here is the recipe.