no-knead bread loaf

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I wanted to make a bread with a chewy crust and a tender crumb to accompany roasted sausages, grapes and onions. So I made two boules, round loaves of bread. This recipe is adapted from the recipe A Loaf of Bread in How to Cook Without a Book. For some reason, my bread doughs are always very wet, and this one continued that tradition. I used SAF-Instant gold yeast which is said to be “osmotolerant” a phrase which means it is specially formulated to handle high sugar doughs. Because of my experiences of the past 8 months with the multigrain bread recipe, it seemed so simple in comparison–just 5 ingredients. And in a sense, the result was quite simple. I got what I wanted. I got a crusty chewy bread with a tender open crumb.

No-Knead Bread Loaf
Time: 3 hours 15 minutes (more or less)

1 2/3 cups water, room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast
4 cups (480 g) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal for the pan

In the workbowl of a large food processor, add the flour and the yeast. Pulse to combine. Add the salt and pulse to combine. While the machine is running on high speed, gradually pour the water down the feed tube, watching for the dough to clump and form a ball. Mine didn’t and I used up all the water. In your kitchen, you might not need all the water. I ended up with a very soft, very wet, very sticky dough. Rather than knead the dough, I decided to use the stretch-and-fold method.

Using a plastic dough scraper, I scraped that sticky dough out into a bowl, covered it, and let it rest 10 minutes. Then I smeared some oil on the work surface and rubbed my hands in oil. I dabbed a little on the top of the dough and turned it out on the oiled surface. Using a metal dough scraper, I lifted the edge of the dough furthest away from me, stretched it and folded it in half towards me. Using the heel of my hand, I pressed the edges together, gave the dough a slight turn, and repeated the process 8 or 10 times. Then I put the dough back in the bowl, covered it and let it rest 10 minutes. I repeated the process two more times. Incredibly, it worked. Without kneading, the dough became smooth, pliant, and elastic.

Grease a large bowl and put the dough in it for the first of two rises, called fermentation. I covered the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and put it in the microwave (off) with a cup of boiling water for company. Because I wanted to get a ciabatta bread, I took the bowl out of the microwave after 30 minutes. (If you don’t, skip this step.) I oiled the work surface and scraped the dough out of the bowl. I oiled my hands and patted the dough into a rectangle twice as big as the ball originally. Then I folded the dough in thirds. First the left side, then the right, then the top and lastly the bottom. I folded the edges of the dough towards the center, rotating it and folding it to get a taut ball. I turned it over, seam side down, and shaped the ball between cupped hands. Then I put it back in the bowl, seam side down, covered it, and let it rise for another 1 1/2 hours in the proofing box (aka my microwave oven, off, of course) with a cup of boiling water to create a humid environment.

While the dough is rising, prepare two bannetons or two 7-inch bowls lined with thin dish towels. Generously flour the bottom and sides of the towel inside the bowls/bannetons and tap out the excess flour.

With fermentation completed, I turned the dough out onto a floured surface and cut the ball into two equal halves. You can weigh it for even distribution. Shape each piece into a taut ball by folding the edges towards the center. Flip it over seam side down, and rotate it on the work surface to seal the bottom. Put the balls in the bannetons/bowls, seam side up. Flour the seam-side and cover the dough with a damp towel. Put them back to proof 45 minutes.

While the dough is proofing, heat the oven to 220˚C/450˚F. Line a large rimmed baking tray with a sheet of parchment. Sprinkle cornmeal on top of the parchment and set aside.

When the dough has proofed, tip the boules out on top of the cornmeal. Using a sharp knife, slash the tops of the dough with a cross. Put the tray in the oven and increase the oven temperature to 260˚C/500˚F. After 15 minutes, turn the tray around. Bake an additional 10 minutes. The original recipe said 20 minutes but the bread was brown and crusty in half the time. Don’t rely on the time but do observe how brown the top is getting. To test the bread is done, it should read 200˚F on an instant read thermometer. Remove the bread to a wire cooling rack to cool thoroughly before slicing.

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