April 06, 2010

Six Hour No Knead Artisanal Bread

There's been lots written about Jim Lahey's 18 hour no knead bread: the crackling brown crust; the airy, chewy delectable interior; the artisanal look; and most of all, the no fuss, no muss no-knead method.  But, as much as I love bread, it just seemed hard to be able to plan for something that far in the future, even if it meant no work on my part.

That's why this six hour version from Bonnie Stern is exactly right for me.  I can stir up the dough right after lunch, tend it one more time and be at the table with hot bread by supper.  What could be better than that?

Six Hour No-Knead Bread
adapted by Bonnie Stern from Jim Lahey's recipe

makes one gorgeous loaf

3½ cups all purpose flour (or a combination of all purpose and whole wheat)

nb. I've long been intrigued by King Arthur Flour - simply because it's not available in Canada and it gets such great raves.  Finally got my hands on some and I have to say the results were fab...

1 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp kosher salt
1½ c warm water
¼ tsp red wine vinegar
Additional flour
Cornmeal, sesame seeds or bran (optional)

1. Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl. 

2.  Combine the water and vinegar and stir into the flour mixture until combined: you will have a soft, sticky dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel and leave at room temperature for three to four hours.

3.  Prep a baking sheet by covering it with a tea towel, sprinkled generously with flour.  Take the dough (which should be risen and full of bubbles) and spread it in a rectangular shape on the sheet that is approximately 12 x 8".  Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.

4.  Place another clean tea towel on a baking sheet on which you have rubbed flour  and sprinkled cornmeal (or bran, etc.). Remove plastic wrap and fold dough into thirds, brushing off flour as you go.  Fold into thirds again to create a pudgy cube: this will become your beautiful boule. Place on the baking sheet and dust the top very lightly with more flour and cornmeal.  Fold the tea towel on top and let rise at room temperature, at least two hours (more is okay).

5.  Forty-five minutes before baking the bread, preheat the oven to 450°F.  Place a heavy large pot with a lid in the oven (for example a Le Creuset Dutch oven) and heat it for 30 minutes.

6.  Take the pot out of the stove and remove the lid.  Placing your hand underneath the dough, lift the boule gently and uncover, shaking off any excess flour and cornmeal over the baking sheet.  Flip the bread into the hot pot, cover and bake for 30 minutes.

7.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid, and bake a further 10-20 minutes, or until the bread is deep golden brown and crusty.* Let cool on a rack.

*When I took off the lid, the bread already looked quite brown to me, but it still needed that extra baking time.  I found that 10 minutes did the trick.