If you’re going to screw up bread, it’s most likely going to be in the kneading. So why knead when there’s no need? I’m guessing that’s exactly what went through Sullivan Street Bakery bread master Jim Lahey’s head when he decided to pen, “My bread,” his revolutionary cookbook of no knead breads. This technique will change how you feel about bread baking forever — no longer is it an unnecessary, laborious task. Instead, its just stirring a couple of things together at night before bed and throwing them in the oven the next day.
Jim Lahey’s Basic No Need Dough
Note: I made this two differnt ways, once with half white bread flour and half wheat, and once with all wheat. The wheat loaf was much denser, but also much more flavorful, though you certainly couldnt stack a sandwich on it. He suggests using all bread flour, but there’s really a lot of room to experiment here. Even if you screw this stuff up, it will still be delicious.
3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
1 1/3 cups cool water
Additional flour or cornmeal for dusting
1) In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the cool water and, using a wooden spoon, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough. This will be a maximum of a minute or two; feel free to use your hands to get the last bit to stick together. This should be really sticky dough, if not, add a tablespoon or more of water.
2) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and let that dough rise! You should let it rise fo 12-18 hours, up to 24 if it’s super cold. You want to stick it in a draft free spot out of direct sunlight, the ideal temperature is somewhere around 72 degrees F. When it’s done, the surface should be dotted with bubbles and the dough doubled in size. The longer you ferment it, the more flavorful. My first loaf, the al wheat, I let sit for 18 hours and the second 12. This could have been the other reason the all wheat was more flavorful (though we gobbled both up, rest assured.).
3)Dust a work surface with flour, and using a spatula, scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. It will want to cling, but don’t add more flour. Using a spatula, shape the dough so that it’s round.
4) Place a tea towel (cotton or linen) on your work surface and dust with cornmeal or flour — I tried both and preferred the flour, but the cornmeal did give it a nice crunch exterior. Wrap the dough and place it a warm, draft free spot for another 1 to 2 hours. It’s done when it’s almost doubled again, and retains the indentation when you poke it with your fingers.
5) 30 minutes before the second rise is over, preheat your oven to 475 degrees and stick a one quart pot in the lower third rung. Obviously, you want an oven-safe pot here, but you know, all I had was one with a rubber handle and it worked just fine.
6) Remove the pot and carefully invert the bread into the pot.
7) Put the pot in the oven and bake covered 20-30 minutes. Then removed the lid from the pot and bake for another 15-30 minutes, until it’s a deep chestnut color.
Lahey suggests you let it cool for an hour before eating, but who are we kidding?