Guys, guys…I am so excited!
It all started a couple days ago when Chris and I were at Marshalls and saw…guess what? This 5.5 quart Le Creuset French Oven!!! I know, at Marshalls! It was…well you know they’re never dirt cheap, but this was definitely a bargain. If any of you are near the Marshalls in Arroyo Grande, head over there – they might still be there. They had about 5 or 6 of them last weekend. Of course they might all be gone now…but who knows?
So after picking up this dream item in a beautiful fire engine red, I headed home to test it out. Guess what was the first recipe that came to mind? Okay, yes, it was Beef Bourgignon. But guess what was the SECOND recipe that came to mind? The beautiful loaf you see below. NO KNEAD BREAD.
I’ve always been intrigued by the concept behind no-knead bread. A wet dough, baked in a dutch oven, that magically comes out crispy on the outside, and light and airy and tender on the inside. Could it be possible? For the longest time I couldn’t try out the recipe, first because I was living in China and owned only a toaster oven and a single hot plate, and then because I had no dutch oven or other heavy casserole. Finally! My day has come!
I still can hardly believe that I really baked this loaf of bread. It hardly seemed to take any effort. For those of you not familiar with no-knead bread, basically the steps go like this. You take some flour, some warm water, salt and just a little bit of yeast. You mix it all together to make a wet, shaggy dough. You let this gooey mixture rest in a warm place for oh, about 18 hours. When it’s risen and full of little bubbles, you gently fold it down on itself, shape it into a ball, and let it rise 2 more hours. Then you bake it in a preheated dutch oven, first covered, then uncovered for the last half hour. Baking it first in a covered oven gives the crust the moisture it needs to become thick and crispy, while baking it with the cover off browns it and crisps it up the rest of the way.
I was impressed with my first try. The only thing I might do differently next time is…well, I didn’t salt it well enough. Which is fine if you put some salted butter on it, but while the texture came out perfect, the taste of just the plain bread was just an iota bland. I didn’t measure out one teaspoon like I should have. I just sprinkled and guesstimated. My bad.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to making bakery-quality bread in my own kitchen! Thank you, Le Creuset. Thank you, Marshalls. Thank you, Jim Lahey and Matt Bittman.
From Jim Lahey and Matt Bittman’s recipe
3 cups bread flour
1 5/8 cups lukewarm water (I just went slightly over the 1 ½ cup mark)
¼ teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1. Mix together all of the above ingredients in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise for the next 12-18 hours, preferably 18.
2. When dough is ready, it will be riddled with holes and bubbles and expanded to over twice its former size. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, and gently fold the two sides over (like a brochure). Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest another 15 minutes.
3. Dust a kitchen towel (not terry) with flour and place in a bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and place it, seam side down, into the cloth lined bowl. Cover with another cloth. Let rise in a warm place for another two hours, until doubled.
4. Half an hour before dough is finished rising, preheat the oven and place a dutch oven or other heavy casserole dish, with the cover on, in the oven to heat up.
5. Carefully remove the hot casserole from oven. Turn the risen dough ball into the hot dish. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes, until browned.
6. Let cool on a rack before cutting into it. Listen to the crackle of the crust as the steam escapes. That means a crispy crust.