Stop loafing around!

This recipe is kneed to know!

bread 3It’s snowy and cold and most-definitely winter in New England. And what does that mean? It means that all I want to do is snuggle down in about 1 million layers and eat carbs and stay warm.

I’m not talking about just any boring carbs. I’m talking about those recipes that you don’t feel bad indulging in, because they are just. So. Good. Be it an exceptional bowl of mac n’ cheese, or mom’s best yeast rolls, or maybe something completely new that skyrockets to the top of the charts.

Today’s recipe is the latter. As I’ve mentioned over the months, I have a friend who is an exceptional bread baker. I admire her tenacity, the foresight and planning it takes to start bread and have it be done by they time she might actually want it, and her sheer skill in making almost stereotypically perfect, crusty loaves.

I don’t normally have the patience. When I make something, I usually want it immediately, or at least within a 6-12 hour time frame. You know?

But, I ended up with a fair amount of time on my hands, since I had a snow day from work. So, I decided to make some bread. Some real, proper, takes-over-24-hours bread.

It was glorious. Unless I am making yeast rolls…I might not ever make any kind of bread again. Yes it takes a while, but it is so worth it.

And it’s not even a lot of work. The recipe I use is from King Arthur Flour. It’s No Kneed. It does it’s own thing. And the longer it sits, the better it tastes. Yes, this recipe can give you bread the same day you make it, but it tastes so much better if you leave it to sit and develop. When you bake it, it gets that perfect french bread crust. Wonderful.

When you look at the ingredient list, you will see many cups of flour. Yes, it makes a lot of bread, but don’t try to reduce the amounts. It won’t come out right.

Also, turns out I didn’t document my steps through pictures as much as I thought I did. So, you will only really get final product, which really isn’t too sad. I mean, the final product is lovely. And who really wants to see super bubbly/shaggy dough anyway?

Easy, No Muss, No Fuss Crusty Bread

Ingredients

3 cups lukewarm water
6 1/2 to 7 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast

*The flour/liquid ratio is important in this recipe. If you measure flour by sprinkling it into your measuring cup, then gently sweeping off the excess, use 7 1/2 cups. If you measure flour by dipping your cup into the canister, then sweeping off the excess, use 6 1/2 cups. Most accurate of all, and guaranteed to give you the best results, if you measure flour by weight, use 32 ounces.

Method

1) Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or a large (6-quart), food-safe plastic bucket. (Remember, when using lukewarm water, comfortably warm is fine; “OUCH, that’s hot!” is not. Yeast is a living thing; treat it nicely. Your bread and belly will thank you.)

2) Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a big spoon or dough whisk till everything is combined.

3) Next, you’re going to let the dough rise. If you’ve made the dough in a plastic bucket, you’re all set — just let it stay there, covering the bucket with a lid or plastic wrap; a shower cap actually works well here. If you’ve made the dough in a bowl that’s not at least 6-quart capacity, transfer it to a large bowl; it’s going to rise a lot. There’s no need to grease the bowl, though you can if you like; it makes it a bit easier to get the dough out when it’s time to bake bread.

4) Cover the bowl or bucket, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. (If you’re pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it’ll get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it’ll rise, then fall. That’s OK; that’s what it’s supposed to do.

5) When you’re ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough — a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It’ll be about the size of a softball, or a large grapefruit.

6) Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball, or a longer log. Don’t bother trying to make it perfect; just do the best you can.

7) Place the dough on a piece of parchment (if you’re going to use a baking stone); or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the dough moist as it rests before baking.

8) Let the dough rise for about 45 to 60 minutes. It won’t appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it’ll seem to settle and expand. Preheat your oven (and baking stone, if you’re using one) to 450°F while the dough rests. Place a shallow metal or cast iron pan (not glass, Pyrex, or ceramic) on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go.

9) When you’re ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2″ deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that’s OK, it’ll pick right up in the hot oven.

10) Place the bread in the oven, and carefully pour the 1 cup hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It’ll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly.

11) Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown.bread 2

12) Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

13) I got about 6-7 small loaves. I would say they were personal sized…but they should be split in half. If you’re feeling generous, maybe 3 ways. Or, if you slice them, like a normal person, you will probably get enough more sharing potential out of them. Anyway you slice it….it’s delicious and meant to be shared.bread

 

 

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