When I first attempted Jim Lahey's no-knead bread about two years ago, it was because I was looking for a relatively easy recipe for a good, crusty loaf of bread. I was new to bread making at the time and not very confident of my ability to make a decent loaf of bread. Or rather, I was nervous about kneading dough properly. I relied mostly on my kitchen mixer to knead the dough and I prayed each time I left the dough, covered and in a warm place, to rise.
I've since had a lot of practice in baking bread and have come to love the process, from start to finish. I don't use my mixer anymore and though I still wait with bated breath as my dough rises or as the bread bakes in the oven, it is only because I love watching the bread form and can't wait to taste the fresh home made loafs.
So why would I attempt a no-knead bread again and again if I so enjoy feeling, handling and kneading the dough with my hands?
Simple: the bread is delicious. So full of flavour, deliciously chewy and with a sturdy but not stubborn, golden crust to boot. And did I mention the flavour? Mmmmm.
Oh and it is recommended that the bread be baked in a dutch oven which will mimic the workings of a steam oven and keep your loaf moist on the inside.
It would be so easy to increase the dosage of yeast in the recipe; to just double it and get a quicker rise but what that would sacrifice is the natural flavour that comes from the long and slow fermentation process.
I stuck to Lahey's basic recipe but because I wanted to make two loaves, I doubled all the ingredients EXCEPT the yeast. Made no difference really; after 18 hours, the dough had risen and was nice and bubbly.
No-Knead Bread (Based on Jim Lahey's famed reipe)
800g (scant 6 cups) bread/all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly cut
Mix the flour, salt, yeast and tomatoes together in a bowl. Add the water and with a wooden spoon, mix everything together well. Cover with a towel and leave it to rise for 16-18 hours.
Generously flour your work surface/a tea towl (or dust it cornmeal or some kind of grain or seed if you want your bread to have some kind of topping). You will need a generous dusting of flour as the dough is still pretty wet and will stick unless you flour the cloth/surface well. Coat your hands with olive oil.
Tip the dough onto the surface and shape it, as much as you can, into a ball. Or more accurately a lump.
Let it sit and proof for a further 2 hours. Or 3.
Preheat the oven to about 240C. When there is just about 30 mins more of proofing time, place your dutch oven (I've used a stainless steel pot before to great success as well) in the oven, with the lid on.
After 2 hours or so of proofing, remove the hot pot from the oven. USE MITS! The pot is scaldingly hot. Remove the lid and gently lift the dough from the counter into the pot. If the dough is sticking to the surface, gently use an oild dough scraper to tease it away from the surface.
Cover the pot and bake for 30 mins after which, remove the lid and bake for a further 15-30 mins until the top is nicely brown and the bread is hollow when tapped.