I’ve been reading Jennifer Reese’s book Make the Bread, Buy the Butter and if you somehow missed it, or were just too busy to put it on your reading list when it came out a few years ago, I suggest you get yourself a copy. One of the reasons I am enjoying this book so much is Reese is willing to try making anything from scratch. From Croissants to Nutella, Goat Cheese to Potato Chips. She makes her judgements with her own highly personalized algorithm of how much the actual ingredients cost vs. how much time and effort/hassle you need to spend making a recipe of something you’d otherwise buy, then factors in how it tastes. Make your own vanilla extract (I have) but buy the Pop-Tarts, and of course as her title suggests you make the bread but buy the butter.*
With this winter-that-will-not-end we have been making a lot of bread recently. Years ago, when I still bought the New York Times every Wednesday because of Wednesday was food day, I came across Mark Bittman’s recipe for No Knead Bread which he got via Jim Lahey. You can watch Lahey show Bittman make it here if you want a time compressed visual. I’ve been making this bread, and a myriad of variations of it ever since. While I miss the kneading you get with more traditional loaves of bread like I’ve written about here and here, I cannot argue that the loaf made from this recipe is superb. If I were to buy it I’d be shelling out $6 or more per loaf.
There are a couple of caveats you should keep in mind with this bread –
- You cannot be in a hurry
- You need to own cast iron or enameled cast iron cooking pots with lids
- You have to not be afraid of smokin’ hot pans
Taking into account caveat #1 we always make two loaves and in our house they are both gone within 24 hours. It is no wonder that after this long winter and many loaves of this bread I am starting to look a little dough-y myself. The pans are what makes this recipe doable at home. You could use glass or baking ceramic, but they would need a lid, and I don’t actually own anything which would work in those materials (plus the thought of what would happen if it slipped and broke is unimaginable in my mind). I do own lots of cast iron and enameled cast iron with lids and they are perfect even though the colors of the enamel start to shift when they get so hot. The third caveat is something to think about. The printed recipe (and how I myself make this bread at home) calls for a 450ºF oven. That is HOT. Seriously people, one slip and you will loose skin, with or without an aloe plant at hand. The oven temperature is another reason why I rarely make this bread in the summer months. I just can’t contemplate having the oven on at that scorching temperature when it is 100ºF outside. So if you do make this bread use oven mitts not pads or as Lahey does in his video dish cloths.
As for variations here’s what we’ve tried:
- A medium handful of Rosemary
- Cup or so of pitted Kalamata Olives
- 1/2 – 1 cup roasted garlic cloves
- 1/4 – 1/3 whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose
I’m sure you can come up with some stellar ideas and I’d love it if you let me know them in the comment section.
No Knead Bread
6 cups all-purpose flour, you can also use bread flour
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
3 cups and a splash of water
cornmeal or wheat germ or extra flour to keep dough from sticking
Mix the bread, salt and yeast in a bowl, swirling everything together with your fingers. Pour in the water and finger-stir until just mixed. Cover and put in a warm-ish place for 14-20 hours. Scrape dough onto floured surface, separate into two blobs, then in 4 folds or less shape into two balls. If you’ve made bread before you will be tempted to knead it – DON’T. Plunk dough blobs onto well floured or wheat germed or cornmealed kitchen towels, flour the tops, then cover and let rise 2+ more hours.
After 1 1/2 hours put your pans in the oven with their lids on and preheat to 450ºF. When the pans have preheated and your dough has had its second rising carefully remove one pan at a time and dump one dough blob in, give the pan a shake, then put the lid on and slip it back into the oven. Repeat with second loaf. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove lids and bake another 15 minutes. When done plop your loaves onto a cooling rack. Your house will smell glorious. You will be tempted to open a bakery. Bask in your ability to make artisanal bread at home then pass the butter.
*I hope I can meet her someday, sometimes you read someone’s cookbook and you just know you’d hit it off.
One of my readers asked what size pots I used. Here is a photo (and a motley crew they are) of my no knead bread pots. They range from 3 3/4″ – 4 1/2″ tall (just the base measerment not including the lid) and 8″ – 9 1/2″ wide.