Who knew that four simple ingredients could yield such different flavors? Thought I’d share some of the loaves I’ve been making. (And, they take less time to make than driving to the store and back, and, they taste like I bought them at the neighborhood Italian bakery!)
Here’s where I do my preparation.
The easiest loaves to do are the “no knead” loaves, perfected by Jim Lahey. They are described here in the NYT. The technique of using some sort of covered pot to act as a traditional outdoor bread/pizza oven allows the loaf to develop a light and airy crumb with a thick and crispy crust. Since we lived in Rome for a year I have missed these hearty rustic loaves and it’s wonderful that I can now make them myself.
Here are the supplies I use from Breadtopia (who, by the way, have great how-to videos for a variety of breads).
However, you don’t need anything as fancy as those things above. You can “proof” (i.e., let rise) your bread in any mixing bowl and then you can bake your bread in any covered pot that can withstand 500 degree temperatures (230 degrees celsius) like a Lodge dutch oven or an enamel Le Creuset-type pot (I have an Emeril enamel cast iron pot where the knob is also cast iron and it cost about $35 from Beds, Bath and Beyond; you have to be careful with Le Creusets because their knobs are often plastic and can’t withstand the high temperatures).
Here’s a loaf made with the oblong pot and basket above.
I’ve also mastered the raisin-pecan loaves like they sell at Zingerman’s (thanks to co-owner Frank for the recipe!).
One thing to note about these breads is that you have to bake them for longer than you think you should, or you won’t get that nice almost-carmelized-flavored crust. They should be baked until they are brown/black (what some might call slightly burnt). If you watch the NYT video link above you’ll see all of Lahey’s loaves are very dark. I made the Zingerman loaves a couple of times before I figured out I really needed to let them bake 5-10 minutes longer than I was to mimic exactly the Zingerman loaf.
Sometimes, for a change, I make a simple whole-wheat loaf. The crust isn’t as nice but it makes good sandwich bread (pictured below with some of our garden bounty).
Here is the no-knead recipe.
The Basic No Knead Method:
3 cups bread flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2 cups bread flour)
1/4 tsp. instant yeast (or quarter cup starter)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups purified or spring water (actually, I just use our well water; you don’t want to use city-treated water)
- Mix together the dry ingredients.
- Mix in water until the water is incorporated.
- Cover with plastic and let sit 12-18 hours.
- Follow video instruction for folding.
- Cover loosely with plastic and rest for 15 minutes.
- Transfer to well floured towel or proofing basket. Cover with towel and let rise about 1 1/2 hours.
- Bake in covered La Cloche or Dutch oven preheated to 500 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Remove cover; reduce heat to 450 degrees and bake an additional 15 minutes.
- Let cool completely on rack.
- Consume bread, be happy.