Sunday, November 12, 2006

Grinds: No-Knead Bread

I saw this in Mark Bittman's column in the New York Times, and it sounded too good to pass up. I've never been able to cook bread. At the Del we used to divide ourselves up into cooks and bakers. If you were good at one we all knew you would be mediocre at the other. If someone interviewed that they were great cooks and bakers we wouldn't hire them, because they would inevitably be mediocre at both. And I could could cook fine, but baking was too exacting and linear for me to be truly good at it.

[off topic] That's the beauty of workers' collectives - you get to make up your own rules. I've been practicing my Spanish by reading articles on El verano de la anarquía (I couldn't handle anymore of María tiene dos hijos or Diego sale mañana por la noche) & I'm seriously starting to think that anarchism might be a way to counter the excesses of capitalism. I loved working in the collectives back in Michigan, but never realized that they had a revolutionary history. [/ot]

But now Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery has come up with a way for those of us who can't follow a recipe to make good, crispy, European style boule. He uses lots of water and a long - 180-24 hours! - fermantation time to get, according to The Minimalist, professional level results.

I'm willing to give it a go. I've got my first batch resting now.

No-Knead Bread

Published: November 8, 2006
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

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