17 May, 2011

No-knead pot bread

This is the easiest bread recipe I know. It requires hardly any work, just lots of time. On top of that it's delicious and comes out looking like it was baked by a professional baker - if you ever need to impress anyone with your bread-baking skills, this is the bread to bake!

This bread is baked inside a preheated saucepan under a lid. If you want the technical explanation as to what that does to the bread, check out this article from the New York Times. All I know is that it works.

No-knead pot bread:

500 ml cold water
A pea-sized amount of fresh yeast (or a quarter teaspoon dry yeast, according to the NYT article)
1000 ml plain flour
2 tsp salt

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the salt and flour, and mix. As soon as all the flour is mixed in, you're done.  Cover the bowl with cling film, and leave the dough to rise for at least 12 hours. I normally make the dough in the evening and bake it in the morning or when I get home from work. 

After 12 hours, the dough will be visibly full of little bubbles. Turn it onto a generously floured surface, and fold it over on itself a few times - that's all, no kneading involved. The dough is very wet, so you need quite a lot of flour to stop it from sticking to the work surface and your fingers. Now gently lift the dough back off the work surface and place it into a greased dish of some kind. I use an oval oven proof dish which I grease with oil and dust with flour. It doesn't really matter what you use, as long as it has room for the dough to grow additionally in size. Cover the dough with cling film, and leave it to rise for another two hours. When the two hours have passed, the dough is ready to bake.

About half an hour before the dough is ready to bake, heat your oven to 250 degrees C. At the same time, place the pan that you are using to cook the bread  in the oven. Both oven and pan need to be really hot by the time you bake the bread. Most recipes I've seen for this type of bread use the very fancy and very expensive Le Creuset cast iron pots. I just use a 24 cm stainless steal saute pan and a quiche tin for a lid. The most important thing is that it can handle going in the oven at 250 degrees and that the lid won't let any air in. Once the dough is ready, remove the pan from the oven, place the dough inside, put the lid on and stick it back it the oven. Let it bake under a lid for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and finish baking for 15 minutes. Turn the bread out of the pan and cool on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.

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