There’s now no excuse not to bake your own bread, said Nick Fox in The New York Times. A year ago, a columnist for this newspaper, Mark Bittman, published what we called “the easiest bread recipe possible.” The no-knead recipe was created by Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in SoHo. The response from readers “was so fervid you would have thought he’d revealed a foolproof way to pick winning lottery numbers.” People desperately wanted to bake bread at home, and that recipe showed them how.
Recently Dr. Jeff Hertzberg, a physician from Minneapolis, developed an even easier bread-making technique. His recipe makes Lahey’s method
look “like molecular gastronomy.” Both use 30 percent to 50 percent more liquid than most recipes that require kneading. Lahey’s recipe, because it uses only a small amount of yeast, requires at least 18 hours of fermentation and often results in a very loose dough. Dr. Hertzberg’s dough rises more quickly, and easily forms into a loaf that can be baked in a pan or on a hot stone.
Recipes of the week
Time: about 1½ hours, plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising time
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1-5/8 cups water
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1-1/4 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
In large bowl combine flour, yeast, salt. Add 1-5/8 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours (preferably about 18), at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
Dough is ready when surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour work surface; place dough on it. Sprinkle with a little more flour, and fold dough over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let rest about 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into ball. Generously coat cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; put dough on towel, seam-side down. Dust with more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel; let rise for about 2 hours. When ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with finger.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up. (It may look like a mess, but that’s okay.) Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid, bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on rack. Yield: One 1-1/2-pound loaf.
Simple Crusty Bread
Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)
Time: About 45 minutes, plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising
6-1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
4 cups water
1-1/2 tbsp yeast
1-1/2 tbsp kosher salt
In large bowl, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature at least 2 hours (and up to 5). Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks.
When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough. Cut off grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating rounded top and lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes. Dust dough with flour and slash top with serrated knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour 1 cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely. Yield: 4 loaves.