I used to bake bread all of the time and, for a while, I was the proud owner of a bread bucket courtesy of my mother-in-law which we used to turn out several loaves of bread at a time.
While bread-making doesn’t intimidate me, I fell out of the habit sometime when I went back to school and only occasionally made bread until I discovered this recipe for No Knead Bread which was originated by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery. And while the original is delicious, the improved loaf suggested by Cook’s Illustrated in this post on Epicurious is genius. Who knew adding beer and vinegar would make bread better?
This is not a recipe that can be rushed. I usually start the dough about 18 hours before I’d like to bake, which can be a challenge for busy schedules! But trust me, the end result is well worth the planning.
Cook’s Illustrated Almost No Knead Bread
Downloaded from Epicurious.com (October 1, 2015)
- 3 cups (15 ounces) all purpose or bread flour (I used King Arthur unbleached)
- 1/4 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (7 ounces) water at room temp
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (3 ounces) mild flavored lager (Budweiser for the win)
- 1 Tbs. white vinegar
- Whisk flour, yeast and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.
- Lay 12- to 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.
- About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch long, 1/2-inch deep slit along top of dough.
- Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes.
- Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer.
- Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
I’ve been a baguette fan for a long time, and even though I’ve discovered there are just too many variables/barriers preventing me from baking a truly French baguette, I keep trying. Baking a French traditional baguette is my quixotic challenge in baking.
French bread flour is definitely different – it is a harder type of wheat I think – and our ovens here in the US don’t always reach the temperatures required for crusty French-style breads. However, I have found a recipe from King Arthur Flour that comes darn close to the real thing, or at least I think so.
When we visit France, one of the things I look forward to is a stop for baguette. No matter how small the town, there is always a boulangerie turning out the most delectable, crusty loaves. Now that I think of it, we just may be overdue for an in-person taste test.
Ingredients for the Starter
- 1/2 cup cool water
- 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached AP Flour (don’t substitute)
- 1/8 tsp instant yeast
Ingredients for the Dough
- All of the starter
- 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached AP Flour (I substituted 1 cup KA Bread flour because I had it in the pantry)
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- Mix the starter ingredients until smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight. Don’t skip this step!
- The next day, mix the starter with the remaining ingredients, kneading until the dough is nice and springy but not totally smooth (or if you are like me, use your bread hook and heavy-duty mixer). Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour and again after 2 hours.
- Divide the dough in half (in our two-person household, I divide the dough into quarters). Shape each half into a rough oval. Wait 15 minutes and then fold each oval lengthwise, sealing the edge, and use cupped fingers to gently roll each piece into a long log. Place the loaves onto a lightly greased or parchment lined (my choice) pan, cover, and let them rise* until they are puffy, but not doubled – this takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rise, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Very gently use a sharp knife or razor to slash 3 diagonal 1/3-inch deep slashes in each loaf. Mist the loaves heavily with warm water (do not skip this).
- Bake baguettes for 22 to 28 minutes, til they’re golden brown. Take the baguettes of the pan and place them right back on the oven rack. Turn off the oven, crack the door open about 2 inches and let the baguettes cool completely in the oven.
- *For extra-crisp baguettes, King Arthur bakers suggest covering the shaped loves and let them rise for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate them overnight. The next day (Day 3!) take them out of the refrigerator and let them rest at room temperature, covered for about 3 hours or until they are nice and puffy. Then bake as in Step 4.