How to feel rich for a quid: make bread #1

If you look at some bread books, and courses, you’d think making bread was the hardest, most complicated thing ever attempted in a kitchen. And, in some ways, it is worth spending time on making it the best it can be; since it’s a fermented foodstuff, generally, a three-day sourdough is going to taste a lot better than a quick loaf.

But, although I do have the time and the dedication, I don’t really have the patience or the room to spend days on it. So I’m always looking for a means of making bread on a regular basis that fits with my desire for something sourdough-esque whilst suiting my tiny freelance income and my love of the speedy, cheap solution. When I found this recipe, Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread in In the Green Kitchen, whilst on a trip to the States to see my mum a few years ago, I was intrigued but, for some reason, I have never got round to making it till now. It sounds too good to be true: mix up ingredients and, well, leave. That’s it. But it isn’t.

Yes, it takes a day (though it can be left overnight) but in that day you do so little that it’s almost embarrassing to see the brilliant result. All for about 70p. If you start this late afternoon/early Saturday evening, you’ll have bread for a late Sunday breakfast. No trip to the farmer’s market required and you don’t even need a mixer. This is one of those recipes that I have made and remade, and am starting to learn off by heart. I was so fascinated by it that I took lots of photos, so that I could properly share the process with you.  I highly highly recommend it. Go on, it’s a bank holiday…

Makes 1 loaf

Cupboard (or things you may already have)
salt, 1¼ tsp
water, 360g (I have also, very successfully, tried this with half ale and half water)

Shopping list
bread flour, 420g plus extra for dusting
dried active yeast (this, not the easy blend stuff), ¼ tsp

You will also need a lidded casserole dish, like a Le Creuset, and a clean tea towel or cloth big enough to wrap the dough.

How to
1. Mix the salt, bread flour and yeast together in a bowl (by hand is fine) then add the water. Mix for about 30 seconds to a minute until you have a sticky ball of dough (add a little more water if it feels dry).

2. Cover the bowl with cling film or a plate and leave for 12-18 hours at room temperature. I have left it for 12 and for 18, both in August, and I think I would err on the side of a slightly shorter time, depending on how warm it is. It’s ready when it has doubled in size and has bubbles all over the surface like this…

Dough
3. When the dough is ready, dust your hands and a work surface with flour then gently loosen the dough from the bowl (using a dough scraper or a spatula) and tip it onto the surface. Shape or tuck it into a ball-shape if necessary.

4. Generously coat the clean cloth with flour, then lift the dough onto it, dust it with a little more flour then loosely tie the ends of the cloth into a bundle so that the dough is covered and leave for another 1-2 hours. It is ready when it has doubled in size again and, when you poke it, your finger leaves an impression in the dough. Leave it a little longer if necessary.

Before the second rise...

Before the second rise…

and after.

…and after. You can see the impression of my finger, a dimple, on the bottom of the dough in the middle.

5. About half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 240°C/220°C/gas 9 and put your lidded casserole dish in it.

6. When the dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven, remove the lid then gently tip the dough into it. Re-cover, return to the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes.

7. When the time is up, remove the lid from the pot and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the bread has a lovely dark brown crust.

8. Remove the bread from the oven and the pot and leave to cool on a wire rack. You’ll have something that looks like this…

The outside.

The outside.

Isn't it lovely?

And the inside.

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