You all probably know at least one annoying couple who drives everyone around them crazy with their constant lovey-doveyness. They call each other pet names like “schmoopie”, hold hands everywhere they go, and engage in frequent public displays of affection while shopping or eating brunch. Back in my single days, I would roll my eyes at these couples whenever I saw them canoodling around NYC. Now, however, my husband and I are that couple.
Along with the constant affection, one of the perks I am enjoying as a happy newlywed is a husband who likes to sing my praises to anyone who will listen. Whether it be my cooking skills, my knack for hunting down a bargain, or my ability to balance our checkbook, my dear husband will gush to you about what a great job I do. Unfortunately, even my husband would be forced to admit to you that there are two things that I am absolutely hopeless at: Gardening (my husband refers to my potted plant and herb attempts as “science experiments”), and Baking.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, I’ve decided that this is the year to add baking to my repertoire. It seems every recipe I want to try requires a stand mixer (which I don’t own), so I turned to a recipe that I remembered causing quite a stir among foodies a few months back. Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread.
Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread
Yields one 1 1/2 pound loaf
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Talk about a science experiment. I really wish I’d had one of these guys around to give me a hand during this process.
Let’s start with step 1:
The above shows what my dough looked like after the 18 hours of resting. Notice how big it seems? That’s because it doubled in size…and it wasn’t supposed to do that until step 3. The above picture also shows what prompted my husband to declare “There is no way I will ever eat whatever that thing is supposed to be”, and “The only thing that should ever be fermented is beer”. Now on to step 2:
Ok, that doesn’t look so bad, right? I managed to get it into the bowl, despite the sticky mess that it was. Onto step 3:
I chose cornmeal, and set about shaping the dough into a ball, but there was no shaping this thing, and no way there was anything resembling a seam. I left it to rest again, and waited for the dough to “double in size” (it didn’t), then into the dutch oven for step 4:
At this point, I was a little skeptical as to what my results would be, because of the “doubling in size” predicament. After a quick “problems with no-knead bread” Google search, I got wildly varying advice. From one source, I was instructed to throw it out, because the dough was now useless. From another, I was told to go ahead and bake it up anyway, it would be fine. I’m glad to say I listened to the latter advice:
Mmmmmmm……..bready goodness. When sliced up and served with Irish butter later that night, my husband could be heard to say “Wow, baby….you made this…this is totally good bread, and you made it”.
Isn’t he such a Schmoopie??