It t has been quite a while since I last made bread. I didn't realise how much I missed bread-making until I started work on this beautiful loaf here. As cliche as it sounds, making bread is therapeutic. The measuring, the kneading, watching a pile of dough rise and rise and rise, shaping dough into form, smelling the bread as it bakes, watching it rise ... man, what a trip.
I think I may be getting a tad emotional here. Give me a minute to compose myself. This is embarrassing.
Ok. I'm ready. So, after a short hiatus, today I decided to be ambitious. Why not bake two loafs simultaneously? I've got a three-day weekend, what better chance to experiment and go on a baking spree.
So the first loaf. It's a no-knead bread that uses very little yeast and hardly any technique and absolutely no kneading. It does however take a long time to make — try 20 hours, at least! But what you will get is a very light bread, tasty and, most importantly, with a delicious crust. An actual crust that you can crunch. Yowza. This bread belongs to Jim Lahey's (of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City). It was featured by Mark Bittman in his column in the New York Times some time back and my colleague Marty Thyme pointed me to it last week — she;s made it more than once, successfully.
As I type, my loaf is currently under construction: I've mixed the ingredients to form a sticky dough which is sitting in a big bowl in a big garbage bag in the corner of my kitchen. It will sit there for about 12 −18 hours. (I made it! I made Jim Lahey's loaf. Read about it here!)
Until then, let me move onto For now, let's focus on the second loaf — a herb-infused loaf that is baked in pot.
The original recipe which I found on thepioneerwoman.com suggests using a cast-iron pot. I have a cast-iron pot but chose to use my stainless steel saucepan instead because ... well, the cast-iron pot is soooo heavy and I was feeling a tad lazy. Imagine that!
This delicious thyme-infused loaf packs a punch. So flavourful is it that you can literally eat it straight out of the oven without any spreads (not even butter is necessary). You can toast it but really, it's not necessary. In fact, I'd advise you against it... at least the first slice because you really need to enjoy the flavour of the thyme and butter that permeates the soft, moist bread.
Ok, enough talk. Let's make bread.
Thyme Pot Bread
4 cups bread flour/all purpose flour
1 cup water
3 tbsp chopped thyme
2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
Melt butter and add the thyme and let it stand for about 5 mins.
Mix the flour, yeast, salt and yeast together in a bowl. Add the water and then the butter (it should still be warm) and mix till a dough forms.
Knead the dough for about 15 mins by hand or 7 mins using your mixer (use the dough hook).
Place the kneaded dough in a bowl that's been greased with some olive oil. Cover with cling film and let it rise for about 2-3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200C about 30 minutes before you are ready to start work on the risen dough.
Once the dough has risen to about double its size (mine took about 2.5 hours), knead it a couple more times to redistribute the yeast and then form it into a round mound (kinda like an anthill) and transfer it into your greased pot/saucepan.
Using a sharp paring knife/blade, cut a deep 'X' into the surface. Lightly rub some olive oil on the surface of the dough, sprinkle some salt and cover the pot.
Bake the bread in the covered pot for about 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking for about 20-30 minutes.
Remove the bread from the oven, drizzle some olive oil on the loaf and cover with a damp cloth. Let the loaf cool a bit before you cut into it to enjoy the deliciously rich slices of warm, herby bread