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We arrived home last night from our winter getaway to Thailand, and I’ve got a mountain of laundry to do and piles of pictures to sort through and groceries to buy and muffins to bake. I promise a post about our trip will be coming soon, but first lets bake some bread, shall we?

I don’t know how it happened that I was way behind on this no knead bread craze, but I was, and it wasn’t until Jessica posted a recipe for Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough (which I have yet to try) and linked back to his  no-knead bread recipe that I even knew about it and decided to give it a try. Here’s the embarrassing part: the recipe was posted online in 2006. TWO THOUSAND AND SIX?! Where the heck have I been?! Oh well, we’re here now, that’s the important thing, right?

You have to be organized enough to start the dough about a day ahead of when you want the bread, and you have to spend about 5 minutes actually handing the dough, but really, that’s it. There is no kneading, no fussing around with a tray of water in the oven, and no need for a baking stone. What you get is fragrant, crusty, yeasty, bubbly artisan bread that is difficult to stop eating and sure to impress a crowd.  Even if you’ve never baked bread before you should give this one a try. It’s dead easy and super impressive. I’m planning to pick up a copy of Jim’s book to see what other sort of trouble I can get myself into.

One year ago: Next Level Hummus

No Knead Bread Recipe:

Recipe, totally unmodified, by Jim Lahey

If this is your first time making this bread be sure to give the instructions a thorough read-through before you start. It’s not hard or fussy at all, but it is important that you understand things in the timeline, like that the pot and the oven need to be hot well before the bread is ready to go in.

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3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting

1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 and 5/8 cups of lukewarm water

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In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add water, and stir with a wooden spoon until blended. The dough will be loose, ‘shaggy’ and sticky. Cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature.

Your dough is ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles and you can see on the edges of the bowl that it has risen.  Generously sprinkle your counter top with flour and  carefully scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the flour. The goal here is to not lose too many of the air bubbles. Sprinkle the top with a little more flour, and gently fold it over on itself a couple of times. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, carefully shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel dish cloth (not terry towel) with flour – you need enough here to prevent the dough from sticking to the towel. Place the dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 2 hours, until dough is more than double in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

30 – 60 minutes before the dough is done it’s last rise, heat your oven to 225 C  / 450 F. Put a large heavy covered pot (I used a Le Creuset cast iron pot. You could also use a Pyrex casserole dish with a lid, or similar) in oven as it heats. When the dough is ready to go in remove pot from oven and place on a heat proof surface beside the dough. Slide your hand under the  dish cloth and turn dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed, but don’t worry about it too much. It will straighten out as it bakes, and the point is a rustic looking loaf. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes – this allows the bread to steam like it would in a commercial oven without fussing around with a pan of water in the bottom of the oven. Remove lid and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is browned. Remove the loaf from the pot and cool on a wire rack. Try your best to let it cool completely before you slice into it.

Do ahead: This bread is free from preservatives, so it will only last a few days at room temperature. It makes a large loaf, so you can cut it in half and freeze part of it, wrapped well in plastic, if you’re not going to go through it quickly.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2012

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