Last week I made the basic bread recipe from Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread book. It was delicious – we ate the whole loaf with our lentil soup – and it’s so simple to make! If you don’t believe me give it a try.
3 cups (400 g) bread flour
1 1/4 tsp. (8 g) salt
1/4 tsp (1 g) instant or other active dry yeast
1 1/3 cup (300 g) cool (55 to 65 degrees F) water
wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour for dusting
Equipment: a 4 1/2 to 5 1/2/ quart heavy pot
1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Make sure its really sticky to touch; if it’s not, mix in another Tbsp or two of water. Cover bowl and let sit at room temperature, about 72 degrees F, out of direct sunlight, until the surface is dotted with bubbles and dough has doubled in size, 12-18 hours.
2. When first fermentation is complete, dust work surface with flour. Scrap the dough onto the work surface in one piece. Use lightly floured hands to lift the edges of the dough in to3wards the center. Nudge and tuckl the edges of the dough to make it round.
3. Place a cotton (not terry) tea towel on work surface and generously dust with wheat bran, cornmeal or flour. Use hands and gently lift dough onto towel, so it is seam side down. Dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal of flour. Fold the ends of the towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft free spot to rise for 1-2 hours. The dough is ready when doubled. If you gently pole it with your finger, making an indentation about 1.4 inch deep, it should hold the impression . If it doesn’t, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
4. Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat oven to 475 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third position, and place a covered 4 1/2 to 5 1/2/ quart heavy pot in the center of the rack.
5. Using pot holders, remove heated pot. Unfold tea towel, lightly dust dough with flour or bran, lift the dough, and quickly but gently invert into the pot, seam side up. Cover pot and bake for 30 minutes.
6. Remove lid and bake until bread is deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15-30 minutes more. When done, carefully lift the bread out and place on a rack to cool thoroughly, at least an hour.
*For whole wheat bread replace flour in original recipe with 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 2 1/4 cups bread flour and increase yeast to 1/2 tsp (2 g).