Monday, February 19, 2007

Late to the Party

I very well may be the last person in all the blogosphere to have tackled the No Knead Bread, and I have to apologize.
I admit that I was highly skeptical.
I admit that I thought it had to be a bunch of hype.
And I admit that that is entirely because I am a bread snob.

You see, I've baked a loaf or two in my day, and I know how much joy even a limp and less than delicious loaf of bread can bring when you've poked and prodded and coached it along for a day or more, and when you're new to the whole experience of the magic of flour, water and yeast. It's like a child by the time it's finished baking, and darn it if you're not going to love it no matter what because the process is just that satisfying.
So I figured it had to be a case of bread baking newbie starry eyes. Because how could bread possibly be good when it requires almost no effort?

It really is all they say it is people, hype or no.

My world has shifted.
The No Knead Bread has realigned the planets for me.

First of all, it's ridiculously easy. Like two minutes worth of work TOTAL kind of easy. And given this ridiculously small amount of work, the recipe turns out a ridiculously delicious loaf of bread. The kind of bread that I'm always on the lookout for and that I get crabby when I can't get.

It's not just any bread, friends. It's the kind of bread that I have, until now, found it nearly impossible to make at home despite the fact that I have "the" equipment, "the" ingredients and the artisan bread baking cookbooks. It's that deliciously chewy, European style bread with an amazing, loose and fluffy interior framed by the perfect, crackly crust.

Now, in all seriousness, I think the whole idea of baking bread in a cast iron pot is absolutely genius. If you're familiar with bread baking at all, you know that typically, recipes for traditional, rustic breads ask you bake them on a stone. If you're a fanatic, you even go so far as to purchase a stone hearth kit for your oven. And many recipes ask you to mist the interior of the oven with water for the first half hour or so of baking, which, along with the heat-retaining characteristics of the baking stone, help to develop the perfect, crispy-chewy crust. Because with European-style bread, it's A LOT about the crust.

Anyway, enter the genius concept of the cast iron pot and lid, which do the same thing as the stone and the mist except all in one nice little package and without having to put your head in a 450 oven repeatedly. The cast iron holds the heat right up next to the dough (like the stone) and the unusually wet dough releases lots of steam while it bakes, creating humidity which is conveniently held in by having the lid on the pot. So basically, the simple and very useful in its own right cast iron pot, is turned into a perfect little artisan bread oven.

Ok, so I'm done raving, but the bread is really freakin' good. It's not perfect, but it's miles and miles ahead of where I was and it's ripe for tweaking. And conveniently, there has already been tweaking aplenty. Because, as I said, I'm a little late to the party.

So go bake a loaf, even if you've never baked bread or even considered it and then tell us what you think. I promise you won't be disappointed. Your world may even shift.
And for the record, I used King Arthur Bread Flour and SAF brand instant yeast. Now, on to the tweaking...


I haven't tried it yet, either, so you're definitely NOT the last person! I don't even have a cast-iron pot to bake it in, though. Sigh.
I just tried it too! I did mine on a stone and it was great. I did a wheat one today!
I also used a stoneware bowl with cover, it comes out great!
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