This is a recipe adapted from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan. It was posted to the New York Times by author Mark Bittman in 2006, and has received many rave reviews, both for its simplicity in preparation and the quality/presentation of the final product. Please note that great food cannot be rushed – you may be dismayed after reading the preparation time needed for the dough, but this time equates to leaving the dough sit on a counter, unattended for 18-20 hours. There is no extra kneading or effort required on your part. By contrast, it will undoubtedly take you quite a bit of effort to let the final product cool untouched on a baker’s rack before tearing into it.
I am not a baker – it was never a skill I truly felt comfortable with (and don’t even get me started on the art of preparing desserts or cakes.) I’m much more in my element preparing main-course meals and side dishes. As a result, I’m kicking myself for not trying this recipe before now. It’s that easy. I now have renewed confidence to try other from-scratch bread recipes including several from my Grandmother. She baked many loaves of bread every week for guests at a resort that she owned in Northern Wisconsin. I still fondly remember the quality shown through her craft which simply cannot be duplicated by mass-production today. Sadly, her recipes never indicated exact amounts or processes and were done from memory, passed down from her Mother, by her Grandmother – so I’ll have a fair amount of detective work and reverse-engineering to get those published on Culinary Compost.
Try adding herbs, spices and a variety of cheese. You really can’t go wrong — trust me, you will be making this on a weekly basis.
I am never buying an overpriced loaf of artisan bread at the supermarket again. Enjoy!
3 cups bread flour, leveled (no need to pre-sift)
1-1/4 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. instant or quick-rise breadmaker yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water + up to 2 tbs. water
Measure ingredients exactly by leveling them. Combine the bread flour, table salt, sugar and quick-rise breadmaker yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir the dry ingredients with a spatula so everything is evenly distributed. Slowly add the warm water and stir to form a doughy-batter. Default to 1-1/2 cups and only add more, one tablespoon at a time, if you cannot get the dry ingredients to bind with the dough. DO NOT OVERMIX. Dough will be ready after a minute or two when it cleanly pulls away from the side of the bowl. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit to proof in the covered bowl on a warm 70-74-degree counter for at least 16 hours. 18 is better and you can go up to 20 hours without fretting.
After 18 hours or so, the dough will have expanded and gotten bubbly on top. It will also appear to have more liquid due to the reaction with the yeast. Using ample, clean counter space, tear off a sheet of baker’s parchment paper and dust the surface of the paper with flour. Also flour your hands. Gently pull the dough out of the bowl onto the parchment paper. Work it carefully into a ball, dusting with a bit more flour if necessary. DO NOT KNEAD THE DOUGH. It’s called No Knead bread for a reason and you’ll actually destroy the expansion of the gluten and air pockets by working it back down.
Cover the dough ball with a sheet of plastic wrap and let rise again for 1-2 hours. This stage is called the second proof and is critical. During this time, the dough will expand again in size due to the reaction with the yeast.
At the last 45-minutes of the second proof, turn your oven on to 450-degrees F. Place a large 5-quart cast-iron Dutch oven with lid in the oven to preheat. Do not oil the pot. When hot, remove the pot and carefully grab the dough ball using the parchment paper as a makeshift “sling” with both hands. Place it carefully in the pot. Score three or four slits in the top of the dough with a sharp knife and cover tightly with the lid. Bake in the oven, covered for thirty minutes. Remove the pot lid and bake for up to an additional fifteen minutes uncovered, until browned. Watch it close! My first loaf took only nine minutes after the first thirty. Internal temperature of the bread should read 200-204-degrees F when done. Remove and carefully transfer the bread using the parchment to a baker’s rack. Let cool for no less than one hour.
Serve sliced as desired with real butter, or with olive oil, minced garlic and balsamic vinegar. Leftovers make wonderful grilled panini bread, toast and bread crumbs.
A Note on Adding Seasonings:
You can add dry or fresh chopped spices when you initially mix the dough. As an option, add grated cheese to the top, then brush the top lightly with XV olive oil before dropping the dough ball into the pot. Get creative and have fun!