There is nothing like a perfect loaf of bread to add to a meal. A loaf that not only needs no kneading and only the bare minimum of ingredients, but also comes out perfect every single time. I have made this loaf hundreds of times. Plain, greek olive and rosemary (my favorite), cheddar and jalapeno, cranberry walnut, no matter what you choose to do with it, it comes out looking, smelling and tasting fantastic! Recently I taught a Dabble class how to make two types of this bread (over a couple bottles of wine at Enerspace Chicago.)
At the classes suggestion, I have broken it down step-by-step, to make it extra easy to follow!
1) Mix together 3 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon of quick-rise yeast, 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 5/8 cup of water in a large bowl (2.5 quart or larger: glass, stainless steel or ceramic). The consistency should be like “shaggy dough” at this point. Don’t over mix, stir till just incorporated. I like to use one of these fancy gadgets called a Danish Dough Wisk.
2) Cover with Saran Wrap or a food grade “shower cap” (food cover) and let it sit overnight, (or at least 12 hours.)
3) In the morning you will have something that looks like this and is wet and sticky.
4) Scoop the dough out onto a well floured mat or Silpat. It will be wet and sticky, you made need a little flour on your hands to help get it out.
5) Gently fold over onto it self three of four times. (Now is where you would fold in your nuts, fruits, herbs and cheese.) You should have something that looks about like this:
6) Let rest for 15 minutes. (They suggest you cover it with plastic for that time but I find it optional.) Then dust with flour and shape into a round ball but tucking under the edges. Coat the inside of a smooth kitchen towel or cloth napkin with flour and drape over the dough, let sit for 1 to 1.5 hours.
7) When you have about 45 minutes left on your rise time, put your pot in the the over (Any oversafe pot will work. Enamel, cast iron, or good old heavy bottom stainless steel all will work.)
8) I never can get a photo of this next step because it require fast actions and full use of both hands. Here you need to open your oven, remove the lid from the pot, flip you mat or Silpat with the dough over into the hot pan, put the lid back and put the pan back in the oven. You will want to do this quickly, as every moment your oven is open it is losing heat. If you find that your dough went in a little crooked, just give the pot a shake or two to center it and you are good to go.
9) Bake with the lide on for 25 minutes at 425.
10) Remove lid and back for 15-20 more minutes until nicely browned. When you take it out and tap the bottom, it should sound nice and hollow, (like a ripe watermelon,) and look something like this:
See the nice big holes on the inside? That is just what you want!
This is the original article that was in the New York Times a few years back. I still have my original copy that I refer to whenever I need it.
Over the years I have learned a few tricks, you too may need to tweak the timing to fit your ovens temperature. But here are my edits to the original recipe:
- Try to keep the rise time between 12-15 hours. Making sure the temperature in your house is around 70 degrees.
- Don’t be afraid when your dough is wet and sticky after that first rise. Just flour your hands, and scoop the dough out into a floured surface and fold it a few times as best you can. (Do not knead!) If it is really wet you can try adding a little flour here or there.
- On the second rise, limit it to an hour to an hour and a half. This will help to ensure a nice high rise in the oven.
- My oven cooks a little hot. So I preheat the over to 450, but then lower it to 425 once I have put the bread in.
- Don’t over analyze, this is a recipe that you trust.
If you have any trouble or questions, just ask – I am happy to help! Good luck and get baking!