Oh, the aroma of freshly baked bread! Can there be anything better? Bread is our most basic, yet one of the most delicious and satisfying, foods. In the words of Robert Browning, English poet and playwright, “If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” Okay, so maybe that’s a little over the top, but bread is a very good thing. And what could be more rewarding than baking your own?
What I’m about to share with you is a really easy bread recipe. Really. Easy. Bread. Recipe. And delicious. AND you can make the dough, use as much or as little as you want, and then keep the rest in the fridge for up to two weeks (though I doubt it’ll actually last that long. Even with just the two of us, we went through the whole thing in a week. It is so good!!)
The recipe comes from Kathleen Flinn’s book The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Women into Fearless Home Cooks. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting and baking bread with Kathleen at a fun Adventures by the Book author event not too long ago. She was so knowledgeable and so inspiring! Kathleen also wrote The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, a memoir, with recipes, about her experiences leaving the corporate world to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School explores a project in which she tries to understand why people rely on convenience foods and what kinds of cooking lessons make an impact on inexperienced cooks.
I personally learned more about cooking from these two books than I have from any cookbook in my expansive collection. I mean, we all know how much I love Smitten Kitchen, but Kathleen shares some good basic information…not only useful hints like the proper way to hold a knife, but good nutrition information and reasons why its less expensive and healthier, to cook, rather than buy, frozen or pre-prepared packaged meals. Did you know that a basic Fettucini Alfredo sauce has basically only two ingredients…heavy cream and Parmesan cheese? So why would you buy a boxed or frozen variety that’s loaded with all kinds of preservatives and ingredients you don’t need?
Okay, so I digress. I’m going to say it again…the bread is really delicious and really easy. And I’d like all of you to give it a try. I’ve got a batch of dough in the fridge waiting to be baked. You can mix it up a little by using half whole wheat flour. Or stirring in a bit of your favorite fresh herbs. And I’m telling you, once you’ve baked and tasted bread that you’ve made from scratch, it’ll be really difficult to rationalize buying a little loaf of artisan bread at the supermarket for $4! (Plus, really, just the aroma of bread baking in your oven…wafting from your kitchen??!?!?)
No-Knead Artisan Bread
(makes four 1-pound loaves)
The original recipe is adapted from www.artisanbreadinfive.com
3 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6-1/2 cups unsifted unbleached all purpose white flour (or you can use half whole wheat flour)
Additional flour to create loaves
Combine water, yeast and salt in 5-quart bowl or plastic container. Stir to mix. Add all flour at once and mix with a wooden spoon until dough is wet and sticky with no dry patches. Cover with plastic wrap or lid (but do not seal airtight…you want the gases from the yeast able to escape) and let rise for 2 hours at room temperature. If you are not using immediately, you can refrigerate the dough, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
To make a loaf, lightly sprinkle flour onto dough’s surface. Scoop a handful about size of grapefruit and tear away from the rest. Rub the dough with flour while gently stretching the top around to tuck the sides into the bottom to form a round, smooth blob. Note: Tonight, at this point, I chopped a couple tablespoons of fresh rosemary and “kneaded” it into the dough…it was amazing! Put the loaf on a pizza peel or cutting board dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Let it rise, uncovered, for at least half an hour or up to 90 minutes.
About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450°. Place a broiler tray or other flat metal pan on the bottom rack of oven. Put a cookie sheet, pizza stone, or cast iron skillet on middle rack.
Dust the loaf liberally with flour. Slash top with “X” or 3 lines. Slide bread onto pre-heated cookie sheet, pizza stone, or cast iron skillet. Carefully pour one cup of water into broiler pan. Close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for 30 minutes, until the crust is brown and the loaf feels light and hollow. Cool to room temperature.
Keep the remaining dough in the fridge. Use as desired. So good. And really delicious toasted!