No-Knead Bread

European, American

You can make genuine artisan-quality bread with little work, as long as you can plan ahead. This recipe, adapted from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, lets time do the work for you. The result is an extraordinarily delicious loaf that costs less than 75 cents to make (and that includes energy costs!) The key is a heavy cast iron pot with a lid - aka Dutch Oven. The closed pot steams the bread, a secret of classic bakery ovens. I am constantly messing around with this recipe - you can see variations in notes below. ~Joanna
4 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast or 3/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water
Cornmeal or flour for dusting
1 In a large bowl, whisk together flour, yeast, and salt. Add water and stir until blended. The dough will be sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest for at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at warm room temperature.

2 Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it (this is a sticky dough, and I use a Silpat for easy handling). Sprinkle the with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Shape dough into a ball, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 hours. When ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

3 At least 30 minutes before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a heavy, 4 quart covered pot in an oven as it heats. Use cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic - the ideal size is 8-9 inches in diameter and 5-6 inches tall.

4 When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal or flour into bottom of a pan. Slide your hand under the dough and turn into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Sprinkle with Fleur de Sel, if desired.

5 Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

loaf  use metric
original recipe yield: 1 pound loaf
Notes NOTE Sesame Seed Topping - In step 2, after shaping into a ball, brush egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water) over the loaf. Using a bowl the size of a finished boule, coat the inside of the bowl with cooking spray or oil. Sprinkle sesame seeds all over the bowl, then turn the ball of dough, egg-wash side down, into bowl, and continue the recipe. Turn oven to 425 degrees when you remove the lid so that seeds do not darken too much.

Structure and texture - Fat keeps the bread from drying out quickly, so lately, I have been adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the water. Also, to improve structure and flavor, 1 hour after initial mixing, grab and stretch the dough, folding it onto itself. Go around the bowl and do this 4 or five times. Re-cover, then let rest. Repeat this a total of 4 times, 1 hour apart.

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