I know this is chocolate month, and I should be posting a chocolate recipe, but you can smear Nutella on this fabulous crusty bread and call it a chocolate dessert. Besides, it’s cold outside, and warm-from-the oven bread slathered with anything sounds pretty good right now.
Jim Lahey and Rick Flaste of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York, authors of the 2009 book “My Bread,” introduced a revolutionary no-work, no-knead method of baking bread sometime in early 2000’s. The New York Times published one of their recipes, and received more emails for it than any other recipe. (Now that the hype is over, you can buy their $29.95 book for about $17 through Amazon.com.)
America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) got inconsistent results when they tried the Sullivan Street Bakery recipe, so they worked to improve it. The original recipe condenses bread making from 6 steps to 4, by using a wet dough and letting time do the work. ATK changed the hydration rate from 85% to 70%. Instead of using a dip-sweep method of measuring, better results were obtained by weighing the flour. The success of the recipe hinges on using the correct ratio of flour to liquids. Instead of just water, ATK added some beer, which they found improved the flavor of the finished bread.
This was the easiest -- and by far the best -- rustic bread I’ve ever made. It would easily stand up to the best bakery’s rustic loaf.
|America’s Test Kitchen Rustic Almost No-Knead Bread |
Rating: 10 out of 10
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15 oz. (about 3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1-1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
7 oz. room-temperature tap water
3 oz. mild-flavored beer, such as Budweiser
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
Whisk flour, salt and yeast in large bowl. Add water, beer and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature 8-18 hours.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured board; knead lightly 10-15 times to form a smooth, round ball; shape into round by pulling edges of dough up onto the middle. Lay 12” x 18” sheet of parchment over a 10” cast-iron skillet; spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place dough round in parchment, seam side down; spray dough with nonstick cooking spray also. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise about 2 hours, until double. (If you poke a finger into the dough and the dent remains, it’s double.)
About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position; place a 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven* (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500F. Remove plastic wrap from dough; sprinkle top with some flour; score top with razor blade or sharp knife, making a gash about 6” long, 1/2” deep.
Carefully remove heated pot from oven and place on a heat-proof surface; remove lid and place on another heat-proof surface. Pick up edges of parchment and use like a sling to transfer dough into the hot Dutch oven. Let any overhang of parchment lay outside the pot. Cover pot with lid; place in oven. Reduce heat to 425F; bake 1/2 hour. Remove lid and bake, uncovered, 20-30 minutes, till bread is deep brown and center of loaf registers 210F on an instant-read thermometer. Carefully remove bread from pot and place on wire rack to cool. Let cool 2 hours before slicing.
Note: This bread is best eaten the day it’s made, but freezes beautifully. Cut slices; wrap individually in plastic wrap and place inside freezer bag.
*Be sure the pot and handles can withstand 500F temperatures.
TIP: ATK says you need a Dutch oven that can withstand 500F temperatures. I don’t have one, so I improvised. Using my 10” cast-iron fry pan with a 9” x 12” pan of steaming hot water underneath, no lid was needed. Of course, I used a shorter piece of parchment -- 12” x 12” did the trick.