Jim Lahey's Astonishing Bread
(via Mark Bittman and my friend Michael, and with apologies to Elizabeth David because it’s better than anything she seems to have ever come up with, as far as I can tell, even though her )
For some months, my friend Michael Schurter, who lives in Minneapolis, was insisting that I should try this “no-knead” bread recipe that the New York Times food writer, Mark Bittman, had been touting. Bittman was given it by Jim Lahey, of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. I didn’t see the point of bread that one didn’t knead. Wasn’t kneading part of the fun? On a visit to Minneapolis in the autumn of 2007, Michael made a loaf to show me what he’d been raving about. It was absolutely amazing. Since then I have made no other kind of bread. It is the one recipe in the world I feel limitlessly evangelical about. I know I’m one of many who feel that way.
I’m going to take the serious liberty of simplifying Lahey’s and Bittman’s recipe a bit. They include a second rising of the dough. I skip that part.
Take three (American) cups of flour and put in a mixing bowl. Try white flour the first time because white gives the most miraculous results, but you can use whatever you want.
Add a good pinch of salt, a quarter to a half teaspoon of easy yeast and stir that up.
Then add one and a half cups of water, preferably a bit tepid.
Stir the dough with a wooden spoon. This is the no-knead part. It’s an unusually wet dough, so just stir it until it’s all mixed up.
Cover with cling-film for between 18 and 24 hours. It will look weird and glutinous and bubbly by the end.
Heat the oven to 220 centigrade and put a casserole dish with a lid – an oval Le Creuset is perfect – inside the oven to heat up until it is seriously hot.
Take it out when it’s hot and sprinkle some oats or oatbran or whatever you want on the bottom of the casserole. Using your hands, lift the sticky dough out of the bowl and into the casserole. Sprinkle some white flour over the top of it.
Put the lid on and place the casserole in the oven for 30 minutes. Then take the lid off and keep it in for another 15 minutes.
Take the casserole out and tip the loaf onto a metal cooling wrack. Let it cool down a bit and then tuck in. It’s miraculous. You may never buy bread again.
(A final tip – to save on energy and time, you could make two loaves at a time and freeze one.)