Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and most of us are gonna be heading back home to spend some time with our families. Sure, everyone will love to see you again after two months, but I’m sure they’ll be even more thankful if you bring back a bread recipe! The smell of freshly baked bread is something that everyone should experience.
There’s one particular type of bread that is easy to make and always comes out of the oven as a stunner – no-knead bread. You don’t need any fancy ingredients or equipment, just the basics and a bit of time.
Ingredients (yields 1 large loaf):
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp instant yeast
- 1-½ tsp salt
- 1-½ cups water (to start)
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Do not pack down the flour when measuring. Mix the dry ingredients with your hands or a wooden spoon/spatula. Add the water and stir for about 30 seconds, or until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined. You’re looking for a very wet and sticky dough. Add another tablespoon or two of water if the dough is too dry.
- Cover the mixing bowl with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours. This is best done overnight. The dough is ready when its surface looks like the moon. Scrape the dough onto a lightly-floured work surface and work it into a rough ball shape. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise for another 2-4 hours.
- Place a heavy cast-iron dutch oven into the oven and preheat to 450 *F. When the oven is preheated and the dough has risen fully, place the dough into the dutch oven. If it looks like you screwed up and dropped the dough in wrong, that’s perfectly fine. The forgivingness is the beauty of this recipe. As the dough springs up under the heat, it’ll straighten itself out.
- Cover the dutch oven and let the dough bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for another 15-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Let the loaf cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before you cut into it.
Now, you may ask how this recipe works. How can bread be good without any kneading? Gluten is traditionally developed by kneading where proteins are broken down and worked into a linked network by the constant mechanical movement. Gluten is what gives bread its structure, its elasticity, and its chewy mouthfeel. However, a long fermentation time can also do the trick. Proteins are broken down so much that even small mechanical movements can develop a strong gluten network.
The dutch oven is also crucial to this recipe. You spent 12-18 hours allowing the yeast to convert flour into carbon dioxide gas. By transferring the dough into a ripping hot dutch oven, the gas that is trapped inside the gluten structure of the dough is heated up very quickly. The expanding gas gives the bread volume and an airy crumb (the “flesh” of the loaf).
This bread does require a lot of waiting, but the actual time spent working is low. As mentioned before, allowing this bread to ferment overnight lines you up with a morning loaf. Give this recipe a try, your folks will be thankful that you did.