One of my favourite things is making bread. I love the smell of it as it bakes and the
way the smell filters everywhere.
It’s when I bake bread that I feel that I am doing a good job of feeding the Bear.
Sometimes, it is just what I need to do to make up for any housewifely transgressions.
I’m a better baker than I am a housewife and he forgets my faults when he sees
a lovely fresh loaf.
I’d seen various people talk about The No-Knead Bread, by Jim Lahey at the
Sullivan Street Bakery in New York
and found links to it in the New York Times by Mark Bittman – and thought
that I would give it a go.
Read those articles. Trust me, it works.
And it works well enough that we prefer it to any other bread we can buy here.
The plus point is that there is no kneading. A good enough reason in itself to
try it, but it will be especially useful this week.
Tomorrow I will be in hospital having an operation on my arm to repair a
damaged tendon and I will be unable to do anything much with it for some time.
I have a feeling things might get tricky……
Anyway, back to the bread. It takes time to do – 12 – 18 hours but the thing is,
it isn’t 12 -18 hours of work.
The yeast does the work…. very slowly. All you have to do is mix the dry
ingredients together, add water and then leave till the next day.
Then stick it in the oven. How easy is that?
Get some decent bread flour
and some yeast
and some salt.
The recipe uses American cups – most of us have cup measures in the house,
failing that, remember that American measures are based on volume,
not weight, so if you use, say a teacup,
remember to use the same measure throughout.
Get a big bowl and measure into it 3 cups of the bread flour.
Sprinkle over that a quarter teaspoon of dried yeast and
one and a half teaspoons of salt.
Stir them all together.
See, easy so far, eh?
Then add one and a half cups of water
(the original recipe says one and five eighths,
so put an extra spoonful in)
Stir it together
And then it looks like this. Rough and ready. Lumpy, even.
But it doesn’t matter!
You don’t have anything more to do other than cover it in cling film
and leave it to one side for 12 -18 hours or so.
Because you use so little yeast it is very easy to digest –
none of this partially fermented stuff you get in shops.
This is a long slow rise……..
The next day, flour a board thoroughly and take a look at your bowl.
The dough seems impossibly wet and
people have been known to feel slightly panicked at this stage…
That can’t be right, you are thinking……
Look at it pulling… but is IS right. See those bubbles,
stretching and tearing?
They are going to transform this wet and sticky lump of dough into
the most delicious bread…
You have to tear it out of the bowl
It is incredibly wet and sticky but don’t worry about that,
it is just how it should be.
Roll the messy lump in the flour and it magically
transforms itself into this lovely smooth ball.
Just roll… no kneading…..leave it for ten minutes or so,
covered in the clingfilm you took off the bowl and then…
….dust a tea towel with flour, or, as I am using here, cornmeal (fine ground polenta)
I like cornmeal because it does give a light crunchiness to the crust and also
because it looks so very pretty!
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t got any, just use flour.
See, a good dusting of whatever you are using and then wrap it
lightly in the tea towel
Then just leave it for two hours to finish rising gently.
After one and a half hours, turn your oven on to just over 200 degrees C/ 392 degrees F
and put in your lidded casserole. You need a lid because it traps the steam
and helps turn the crust into the most delicious chewy gorgeousness…
and you need to get your pot hot. Very hot.
Then, using oven gloves, (that pot will sizzle your fingers otherwise) get the pot out of the oven
and take the lid off…..then chuck in the dough.
Still no kneading. Give the casserole a shake to settle the dough,
then put the lid back on and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.
After half an hour, take the lid off and just look at that……
Then, back in the oven to finish off and get brown.
And there you have it. Get it out of the oven and leave it to cool.
I know that is hard because it really does smell gorgeous but
cooling is essential.
That truly is the most delicious bread – all you have to do is give it time to make
itself. Even a one armed cook could make that.
Well, if a one armed cook had someone to get the pot out of the oven, that is.