Do you see the crust? Do you?
I'm ecstatic! I've been kinda restless the past couple of days, anxious to see if my no-knead bread would turn out. Two days? Well, kinda. This is Jim Lahey's (of Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC) bread, baked his way — with very little yeast, absolutely no kneading and in a cast iron pot. Lahey's method is simple: you measure the ingredients, mix them together with your hands and then let the dough sit for a long, long time (12 − 18 hours!) and wait for the dough to develop organically. Uncomplicated, right?
Lahey's technique was featured in Mark Bittman in his column in the New York Times some years ago. What truly interested me about this method was how, despite the seemingly simple technique, Lahey was able to achieve an impressive crust on his loaf. A nice crispy, golden crust that envelopes the light, soft loaf.
I've never been able to get a crust on any of my loaves... well, except for the time when I leave them in the oven a tad too long and I end up with a super black crust. Yes, you may say I burnt my loaves more than a couple of times.
So, a crust? I was interested. So interested that I decided to take my gorgeous blue cast iron pot from hibernation. I bought this beauty a couple of years ago and I have to admit I haven't used quite so much. It's sits comfortably at the far end of my kitchen cupboard. Why? Well, it's really heavy! And I am too lazy to reach into the cupboard and heave it up.
But this bread got me excited enough to get the pot out (and dust it. And rinse it).
Ok. Enough talk. Let's get down to the recipe.
Jim Lahey's No-Knead Crusty Bread
3 cups bread flour (plus more for dusting)
1/4 tsp instant yeast
11/4 tsp salt
11/2 cup + 2 tbsp water
Mix all the ingredients together with your hands till a sticky dough forms. Cover the mixing bowl with cling film (I just slipped the bowl in a large plastic bag and clipped the edge together) and let it sit on your counter for 12 to 18 hours.
I am sorry, I didn't take pictures of the process but you can watch a video of Lahey mixing his dough here.
* If you make this at night, you can go to bed, wake up have breakfast, watch TV, run errands etc while the bread rises.
Flour your hands. Flour your work surface — you can also sprinkle some wheat bran on the flour to flavour your crust. Gently coax the dough out of the bowl and onto the floured work surface.
Don't knead. Really. It's a no-knead recipe, remember? Stretch the dough out to form a rough circle and fold in the sides. (left, right, top and bottom).
Cover with a towel and leave to rise for yet another 1-2 hours.
About 40 mins before the second rise is due to end, pre heat the oven to 225C and put your cast iron pot, covered, into the oven to heat it up.
The pot needs to be hot. Very hot.
After two hours, the dough should be nice and plump, still a little sticky. Just a little but the dusting of flour should make it easier to handle now.
Take the hot pot out of the oven. Wear your oven mitts because the pot will be very hot by now. Remove the cover and transfer the dough, seam side down into the pot.
Cover and bake for 30 mins. Then, remove the cover and bake for another 15-30 mins until your crust is nice and golden.
Voila. It's done!
Admire your crust. Isn't is lovely. Cut the bread and look at the lovely bubbles that have formed. Chemistry rocks!