Despite all the well-deserved hoopla since the New York Times published a recipe for no-knead bread by the practical and plain-talking Minimalist writer, Mark Bittman, some happy home bakers felt they arrived late to the party. With eyes wide with awe or narrowed with skepticism, the greater contingent of yeast feasters contemplated the wondrous development of the no-knead (“Look, Ma, no hands!”) bread, where the chief effort is in patiently sitting on those hands, waiting from 12-18 hours for fermentation to breathe literally volumes of sticky, stringy dough. The dough is then casually baked after being casually dumped into a Dutch oven, the cover of the pot ingeniously used to hold the heat and steam in like a geodesic dome.
I am not a stranger to long fermentation; my ragingly successful teff batter, clocked at 24 hours, produced a bowl of ripe sludge akin to mortar and the sourest, spongiest injera to bed down with a hot-headed wat. I can wait if I want to, but I don’t always want to.
I didn’t want to wait some weeks ago. I was building a big creamy mess of Andean potato stew and needed to build an equally homey bread to soak, scrape and savor every last drop of it. It had to be a quick bread, but I refused the path of least resistance, the baking powder biscuit, a masterpiece in its own right, but lacking the quintessential crust and crumb that only those little yeast beasties can provide.
There are times when sauntering through a cookbook for your heart’s desire is just about the most comforting and cozy pursuit you could enjoy, but I did not have the luxury of time. The stew would be bubbling up fast enough, its potatoes threatening to revolt against their stylin’ cubism in favor of slop art. I Googled and gambled with the very first recipe I could grab.
About two hours later: French bread, a long, heavy arm of artisan crust as craggy and crackly as a lizard’s back, and a crumb dense and firm enough to withstand a crumbled smear of hard, cold butter without breaking. The party for no-knead bread may be nearly over, but there’s still cause for celebration.Quick French Bread – Highly adapted from Vegan-Food
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (no sifting necessary)
2 (two) ¼ ounce packets Fleishmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast – MUST be Rapid Rise or another brand of fast-acting dry yeast
2 cups of water
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons salt, seed, seasoning or dried herb (optional)
In saucepan heat water and 2 tablespoons butter to very warm 120 – 130 degrees F. Transfer to very large mixing bowl. While water and butter are heating, stir dry yeast, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt into flour in a separate mixing bowl using a wire whisk. Make sure all yeast organisms are removed from the packets; they will want to cling to the edges. Slowly add ½ the flour mixture into the water, stirring well, then add the remaining flour mixture, beating it in with a wooden spoon. The dough will be very ragged and a little dry, but keep beating until there is no loose flour left in the bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or foil then set aside in a warm, draft-free place until dough doubles in size, approximately 45 minutes. When dough has doubled, punch it down, then empty the bowl onto a well-greased large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Flatten dough into rectangle about 1/3 inch thick, then roll the rectangle up lengthwise into a long loaf. Fold and tent the foil over the loaf and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has again doubled.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place pan of boiling water on lowest oven rack, then arrange the now-doubled loaf on the center rack, opening up the foil to expose it. The foil will act as the baking sheet. Slash the loaf randomly with a serrated knife and gently press optional garnish into soft dough top. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Brush loaf with melted butter then return to oven for final 5 minutes.
Makes 1 generous loaf. --
This post is being submitted to Andrew at Spittoon Extra, host of Waiter, There's Something in My...Bread, the latest round of the food blogging event, Waiter, There's Something in My....
And here's the round-up published April 26, fresh out of the oven.