August 21, 2013 by jenniebean10
I miss the time I spent living in France. Boulangeries in Paris are like Starbucks in NYC, in that you can find at least 6 on any given block. Artisanal boulangeries, where they bake the bread on the premises, are magical. When I lived in Paris this past spring, there was a great bakery that was open even after I got off work late (usually until 19h!!), and I would often pop in to pick up a baguette or some pain de cereales for a goûter (snack). Amazing fresh bread is reasonably priced at only about 1,20€ or less, and it’s easily accessible, so there’s really no need to bake your own bread in France. After all, these boulangers all stay in business for a reason, right? David Lebovitz is a foodie and expert and has this great post about how to find a good baguette in Paris.
Most of you folks reading my blog do NOT, in fact, live in Paris. Maybe you’re like me, and you’re picky about your bread. Maybe you don’t like the fact that loaves of fresh bread cost upwards of $3 a pop. Maybe you’d prefer not to drive 10 miles away for some expensive but delicious bread every week. Maybe you are lazy (it’s okay, I’m lazy, too) and you can’t even fathom making your own bread. Is the only type of “bread” you make quickbread? Does the thought of baking loaves of bread without the aid of a bread machine or stand mixer make you quiver in your boots? STOP IT! STOP QUIVERING! RIGHT NOW!! Calm your nerves and make some bread. This is so easy.
I’m getting more and more confident with baking true bready goods. Soft pretzels (recipe coming soon!), pita bread, challah, and now these loaves. I don’t have a stand mixer. My little hands aren’t very strong. Kneading can be more tiring than boxing tracks at Combat. But bread is still doable! Especially when you don’t have to knead it or use any special tools. Apparently I’m slow to get on the no-knead bread train, and these recipes have been popular for quite some time. This is a recipe my mom found while reading The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn, and shared with me. She highly recommends the book, by the way. It’s on my list of things to read. Thanks, mom!
In terms of tools, you just need a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, a pan with water, and a baking sheet. If you are a lucky duck and have a pizza stone, use it! If you have a spray bottle and like a good crust on your bread, grab that, too. You can spray some water on your bread throughout the baking process so that the crust gets nice and golden and crispy.
The thing I hate most about breads is that yeast is finicky. When recipes tell me to simply dump the yeast in my dry ingredients and add warm water later, I don’t trust myself to get the temperature of the water just right. This is the reason my bagels have always failed, and I haven’t retried them yet. I changed this recipe by proofing my yeast first to avoid this problem. If you’re gutsy or experienced with making bread, then by all means, do it your way and skip the proofing part. Here’s the recipe for the no-knead bread, which I adapted slightly, and halved since it was an experiment.
Yield: four 1-lb loaves
6 c. unsifted, unbleached flour (AP, whole wheat, or bread flour will all work fine)
3 c. lukewarm water
1 1/2 t. yeast
1/2 T. salt
dried herbs, optional
Proof your yeast! Sprinkle yeast over warm water, add a pinch of sugar and stir gently. Allow yeast and warm water to rest, foam and froth for about 5 minutes. If yeast does not foam and froth after 5 minutes, chuck it and start over again with new yeast. Pour yeasty water into a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, salt, and herbs (you could probably knead these in afterwards if you want different flavored loaves) all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon until dough is sticky and flour is fully incorporated. Cover bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let rest at room temperature for 2 hours. (If you’re not using the dough immediately, you can refrigerate it, either in a reusable container or covered with plastic wrap, for up to two weeks.)
Lightly dust a large cutting board with cornmeal. Dust your hands with flour. Tear a handful of dough off, about the size of a grapefruit. Sprinkle flour on the dough’s surface, then gently rub the dough with flour while stretching the top, pulling the sides around to the bottom so that the top of your loaf is smooth. Place on the cutting board and let sit for 30-90 minutes. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450°F and place a rack at the bottom and one in the center. Place a metal baking pan with a few inches of water on the bottom rack. (This will keep the oven steamy and help you get a nice crust on the bread.) If you’re using a pizza stone, put it in the oven now to heat up.
Move the loaves to a baking sheet (or place on your pizza stone), dust liberally with flour, and use a sharp knife to slash with 3 lines or make an X across the top of each loaf. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown and loaves feel light and hollow. Cool to room temperature (if you can stand it!).
Keep remaining dough in the fridge and use as desired.