No Knead Bread launched more fine baking careers that I can count.  And it brought the craft of home made yeast bread back to kitchens around the world.

The original no-knead bread was developed as a thought experiment by Canadian chef and baker James MacGuire. He wanted to come up with a way to capture the texture and crust of a French baguette at home. In his method, he mixes a wet dough with a minimum amount of yeast. Instead of kneading, he gently folds the dough over onto itself every hour for four hours.  This helps the elastic structure in the dough develop without kneading. And it allows the dough to ferment and develop a fine flavor. Otherwise the dough requires little attention.

Around the same time, another baker Jim Leahy, perfected a similar approach to make billowy loaves of crusty bread. Instead of tending to the dough by folding it over several times, he mixes the dough. Then he lets it sit for 12 to 18 hours.  During that long slow rise, the dough softens. The flour absorbs the moisture and the yeast comes alive. His Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan sells this fabulous bread.  And millions of people make it at home following his recipe.

What appeals to me in each of these approaches is how accessible yeast bread making is the the beginning bread baker. After making a batch or two, you can add a small amount of whole wheat or rye and start to develop different flavor profiles in your bread.  And if you stick with it you might find yourself graduating to other types of bread.  Or to grinding your own flour. Or to using sourdough starter.

Bread makes the meal and this recipe is one way to get started.

Experimental No Knead Bread

Yield: 1 Round Loaf

Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan is famous for billowy loaves of crusty chewy bread. Baker and owner Jim Lahey makes this bread using another type of no -knead technique. Instead of tending to the dough by folding it over several times, he mixes the dough. The he lets it sit for 12 to 18 hours. During that long slow rise, the dough softens. The flour absorbs the moisture and the yeast comes alive. This recipe is adapted from his book My Bread published by Norton.

Ingredients

400 grams (3 cups) King Arthur bread flour, at room temperature

10 grams ( 1 ½ teaspoons) fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast

300 milliliters (1 1/3 cups) water, 55-65°F

Rice or whole wheat flour for dusting

Directions

  1. Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the water. Stir the flour into the water using your fingertips. As the flour moistens, scrape more flour in from the sides of the bowl. Start to grab and squeeze the mixture between your fingers to create a uniformly wet sticky dough.
  2. Cover the dough and let it rest for 12 – 18 hour at room temperature 70 – 72°F. The dough will more than double in size.
  3. Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour. Slide your fingers down the sides of the bowl and sprinkle with some flour. The dough will be elastic.
  4. Turn the dough out gently onto a flour-dusted worktable.
  5. Pick up one side of the dough and fold it over onto itself. Pick up the opposite edge of the dough. Pull and stretch until it reaches the other side. Do this a few times to build tension on the dough.
  6. Flip the dough onto a sheet of flour-dusted parchment paper. Slide the parchment paper into a banneton or bowl to proof. Cover the dough loosely with a sheet of thick plastic.
  7. Place a covered 4 ½-to 5 ½-quart cast iron or clay Dutch oven in the oven. Preheat the oven to 475°F.
  8. Let the dough proof for 1 – 2 hours. A fingertip pressed into the dough should disappear in 2 -3 seconds. If it springs back, wait longer. If it does not disappear, you have waited too long. The loaf may be somewhat flat after baking.
  9. Score the surface of the dough if you like. Carefully remove the heated casserole form the oven. Remove the lid. Lift the parchment by the edges and place it and the dough in the casserole. Cover and return to the oven.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 15 - 30 more minutes until the loaf is a burnished deep brown color. Cool the loaf on a wire rack for at least an hour before eating.