Monday, May 12

Adventures in (no-knead) bread-making...

If you are already familiar with this incredible method for baking no-knead bread, which steams inside a pre-heated dutch oven and transforms into the most perfect bakery-worthy crusty bread in the world, then there is nothing new for you here.

But I only recently discovered it.

And oh my my! I am completely addicted. This bread is just so good. And so fool-proof! 
And the recipe is incredibly versatile too… you can make endless variations of this bread. 

Like this cheddar-jalapeno bread...

 Or this flax seed bread…

You don't need any bread-making experience to make this bread. It is so easy! You will blow yourself away, and your friends will tell you that you should quit your job and open up a bakery ;)

All you need is flour, water, yeast and salt... and a dutch oven. I use my small Le Creuset pot. But you can use any oven-proof pot with a tight-fitting lid that can handle the heat. My friend made hers in a tajine and it worked wonderfully.

Read on for the instructions and recipe… it will change your life!

Here's the basic recipe for No-Knead Bread:

3 cups flour (preferably bread flour, but all-purpose flour works wonderfully as well)
1 1/2 tsp quick-rise dry-active yeast
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups warm water

In a large bowl mix together the flour, yeast, and salt. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the warm water. Mix until all the flour is incorporated. Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave on the counter (at room temperature) for 8-12 hours.

I either mix the dough first thing in the morning and then bake it after work in time for dinner, or I mix the dough before bed and bake it in time for breakfast the next morning :)

Over the 8-12 hours, the dough will rise up considerably as the yeast fill it with gas bubbles, and turn it into an airy, wet, and rather sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Flour your hands and gently shape the dough into a ball (do not knead it!!). The dough will be quite sticky - that's normal. Use additional flour if necessary, but use only what you need in order to shape it into a round. I do this by folding the dough in half once, so that the floured surface from the bottom is now on top, and then gently spin the dough between my hands until it forms a nice ball. Then loosely cover it with the plastic wrap again and let it sit on the counter while you preheat your oven and pot. See photos below.

Now, set your oven rack low enough so that you can fit your dutch oven (with it's lid on) inside it. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Once preheated, place your empty dutch oven in, with it's lid on, for 30 minutes… you want to get it really hot!

Remove the dutch oven using thick oven mitts. Very carefully, pick up the dough and gently drop it into the pre-heated dutch oven (be careful not to burn your hands on the sides of the pot). Quickly re-cover the dutch oven and put it back in the oven. Bake at 450 degrees F for 30 minutes.

^^ 1. the dough after about 1 hour of rising. 2. After 8 hours of rising - note the tremendous rise! These photos are from the flax-seed version of this bread, in case you were wondering what those brown specks are. 3. Forming the dough into a round. 4&5. The dough after resting 45 minutes on the counter - note the continued expansion. 6. In the pre-heated pot, ready to bake. ^^

After 30 minutes, quickly open the oven and remove the lid. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or so until the crust is golden and caramelized!

Then dump the bread out of the pot and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Either break into it right away or let it cool a few hours (it will be easier to cut)… although we are never able to wait more than 15 minutes before digging in!

My favourite way to eat this bread... fresh from the oven, torn into pieces which you dip into a shallow bowl of good-quality olive oil swirled with a balsamic vinegar reduction glaze. So good!

Add in some cheese or a charcuterie plate and you've got dinner.


A few variations I've tried…

Flax Seed Bread
Follow the exact same instructions as above, except add in 2 tablespoons of whole flax seeds and 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds to the flour mixture before mixing in the warm water. Then proceed as usual.
You can use all whole flax seeds (as shown in photo below) if you prefer, but you get more nutritional benefit by grinding them up. I like to keep some whole because they make the bread look so pretty.

I also tried the flax bread using an organic stone ground wheat flour (with 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds and 2 Tbsp whole flax seeds), which produced a heartier nutty-flavoured whole-grain bread: 

Cheddar Cheese-JalapeƱo Bread
Same as above, but mix in 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese (orange for colour), and 2-3 finely chopped jalapeƱos (remove seeds & white pulp first if you don't want it too spicy) just before mixing in the warm water. Then proceed as usual.

You could make sweet breads too, with grated chocolate, dried cranberries and orange zest, for example... or add in chopped nuts and seeds. The mix-in options are endless!

Enjoy! And if you come up with any winning combinations, please let me know :)


Elizabeth said...

Your bread recipes sound wonderful, can't wait to try them. I just got a new book...Josey Baker might enjoy it!

xoxo Elizabeth

Lady Grey said...

Thanks, Elizabeth - I haven't heard of that book. I will look out for it :)

Vanessa C said...

Can't get mine to rise. Three times tried and no luck. Any suggestions?

Vanessa C said...

Can't get mine to rise properly. Tried three times. No luck. Any suggestions?

Lady Grey said...

Vanessa C, that's really odd! Are you using "quick-rise" yeast? Because traditional active yeast should be proofed first ideally. Also, were all three times with the same batch of yeast? Sometimes buying a fresh batch makes all the difference.
Otherwise I have no clue what could be going wrong!