Forgive me if I repeat myself, but I continue to be amazed at how simple it is for a home cook to turn out a bread like this. Anyone who’s never tried bread baking for fear of failure or of time-consuming hands-on work should just set all that aside and jump on this bandwagon of no-knead artisan baking.
Do you have an oven? Check. Do you have a cast iron Dutch oven with 4-6 quart capacity? Check. Now all you need is a few readily available ingredients and a bit of planning for the 10 hours it will take your dough to work its magic before you touch it again a half hour before baking.
The quality of your flour and yeast is essential for success. I’ve been baking bread on and off for over 25 years with various bread flours and with all-purpose flour enhanced with vital wheat gluten. I have never worked with anything that comes close to Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour for outstanding results.
The package has your basic recipe, to which I’ve added the technique of using a parchment sling, the dusting of flour and the slashes across the top for that genuine artisan look. And for this latest loaf, I tried something that worked to both amp up the leavening and a bit of sourdough taste – two tablespoons of plain yogurt mixed in with the warm water. With or without the yogurt, when this bread comes out of your oven you’ll be patting yourself on the back and making excuses to do it again and again.
BASIC NO-KNEAD ARTISAN BREAD
(ADAPTED FROM BOB’S RED MILL)
3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour, plus more for dusting later
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp SAF instant yeast (or other high quality instant yeast)
2 tbsp plain yogurt (I used goat milk yogurt) plus enough lukewarm water to measure 1-1/2 cups; or simply 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
Plan to start this either early in the morning so you can bake right before dinner, or late at night to be baked the next morning. In a 5-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and yeast. In a small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, stir together the yogurt and lukewarm water. If not using yogurt, just use 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water.
With a sturdy silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir the liquid into dry ingredients until it all looks like a soft, ragged dough. Make sure to get all the bits of dry flour that might cling to your bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap – not touching the dough – and set it aside for 10 hours. I stash mine in the microwave overnight to protect it from mischievous cats.
Meanwhile, go about whatever activities you normally do, including possibly sleep, and come back to this 10 hours later. This is what you should see:
Amazing, huh? Yes, it’s alive. Now, place your Dutch oven on the middle rack of your oven and turn the temperature to 450º. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Scrape your dough onto a generously floured work surface or bread board and, with floured hands, coax it into a round shape. Rinse out your bowl, line it with a large sheet of parchment, and gently move your dough into the bowl. Cover it loosely with plastic.
When your 30-minute timer goes off, sprinkle a bit of flour across the top of your dough, cut three vertical slashes across the top, take your screaming hot Dutch oven out with your best oven mitts, move it to a heat-proof surface, and lower your dough into it in its parchment sling. Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes. This is where more magic happens, as the dough releases steam inside the pot, and rises again to become bread. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking uncovered for another 12 minutes.
That’s it. All you need now is the patience to let it cool on a rack for at least an hour before slicing. I really want to hear from you after you’ve tried this for the first time.