Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rise and Shine

Jim Lahey knows dough. The founder of Manhattan's Sullivan Street Bakery is renowned for his fabulous breads; Baby and I have also had the opportunity to try his incredible pizza crusts at Co. restaurant in our neighborhood. Now, the new book My Bread written with Rick Flaste lets us in on some of Lahey's secrets to try at home.

None of the recipes involve kneading, but Baby and I just made The Basic No-Knead Bread Recipe and it couldn't have been easier. The few ingredients are combined and left to rise for 12 hours to 18 hours (the author's preference), before being formed and baked. We think it's a great idea to make the dough ahead of time and bring it to a friend's house for a dinner party and bake it there to fill the kitchen with a warming aroma of yeasty goodness--just make sure not to monopolize the oven if it's already being used!

The Basic No-Knead Bread Recipe
Adapted from My Bread by Jim Lahey with Rick Flaste

3 cups bread flour (we prefer all-purpose flour!)
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1/4 teaspoon instant or other active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups cool (55 to 65 degrees F) water
wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour for dusting

Combine first three ingredients in a bowl and mix for about 30 seconds with a wooden spoon. Add water and mix for another 30 seconds (add more water a little at a time if necessary to absorb the flour and create a batter).
Cover with a plate and let sit for 18 hours.
Lightly flour a surface. Remove the dough from the bowl and on the floured surface, gently pull the sides of the dough into the center, forming a ball. Sprinkle a tea towel with cornmeal and gently place ball seam side down in center. Fold corners of tea towel over dough to fully cover. Let rise for two hours.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees 30 minutes before this second rise. Put oven rack on lower third of oven and in the center place a covered 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-quart heavy cast iron or enamel Dutch oven on it. Working quickly but carefully, remove the vessel that has been pre-heated for 30 minutes from the oven and removing the tea towel, dust with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour, place dough in the pot, seam side up. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove lid and bake until a "deep chestnut" color is achieved, for about another 15 minutes. Keep checking on it so as not to burn. Take out of pot and place on a cooling rack. Exercise patience and wait until bread has completely cooled before eating, about an hour.

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