“Bread is the king of the table and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king. The countries are the soup, the meat, the vegetables, the salad, but bread is king.”
– Louis Bromfield (1896-1956)
Ah bread: that archaic alchemy of of flour, water, yeast and salt that excites the senses, connect us with our primitive selves, and fill the house with an intoxicating aroma that every person should experience at least once. In my book, you haven't truly lived till you've baked your own bread from scratch.
In 2006, the New York Times posted an article on how to make artisan bread (in other words, not Wonder Bread) without having to knead the dough - ostensibly this makes it easier, though I personally don't think kneading dough is anything big chore. This recipe has been tested by thousands of people and re-blogged hundreds of times. Its a tried and true way to make an awesome loaf of bread.
I've been wanting to make this recipe for a while because I've seen the results first-hand. The bread is light, full of wonderful airy holes, and has a respectable, but not molar-destroying crust. And since today is Thanksgiving, it's 30 degrees outside and my house's heater decided to die, the idea of getting the oven fired up and baking some bread sounds like a great way to warm up.
Music for this endeavor: Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant Massacre" - because its Thanksgiving and when else are you going to appreciate a 20 minute song?
Keep in mind that because there isn't much kneading, you are relying solely on your yeast to do all the work, so this is going to take some time to accomplish. The dough needs to rise for at least 18 hours before it goes in the oven. So as long as you time things out correctly, you should be golden.
So here's how to make a stupid simple artisan bread that will make you look like an expert baker.
- 3 cups all purpose or bread flour (plus a little more for dusting)
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 cups water
Add the flour, yeast, salt and water together and mix until its a shaggy mess.
Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough sit in a warm (70 degree) area for 12-18 hours. If the house is cold (like mine is), a good tip is to put the dough in a cold oven with only the oven light on and leave it overnight.
|This is what my dough looked like after about 15 hours of sitting in the cold oven. |
It pretty much doubled in size, with lots of bubbles over the surface.
|Scoop the bread out of the bowl and lay it onto a floured surface. |
Fold it over a couple of times.
This is as close to kneading as you are going to get.
|Toss the bread back into the bowl and let it rest for about 15 minutes. |
Some people suggest lightly spraying the bowl with cooking spray before you put the dough back, but I didn't think it was necessary.
|After 15 minutes, place the bread on a sheet of parchment paper. Shape it into a ball (or whatever shape your cooking pot is) by tucking the ends underneath it and stretching the surface a little. Let it rest/ rise for another two hours.|
|After two hour the dough will have doubled in size again. It should be plump and leave dents in the dough when you poke it with a finger. This was just right.|
|About a half hour from the dough finishing its last rise, pre-heat the oven to 450 and place your baking container inside to pre-heat. This is the pot that I cook my bread in. I picked this up at a yard sale many years ago.|
|And voila: fresh baked bread from scratch.|
|The crust had a firm, noticeable crunch, but the center was soft, tender and delicious. |
The perfect accompaniment to a great meal.