I first decided to tackle bread making when my husband pointed out that we both like rye bread, but I never buy it. I explained that rye bread is $4 a loaf at the grocery and it probably only costs about $0.60 to make. I experimented with many types of recipes from rye, whole wheat, white, part white part whole wheat and I baked many loaves of very dense, heavy loaves.
I thought I was kneading the dough enough, or didn’t use the right brand of yeast, or I punched too much air out before the second rise, since the second rise never seemed to be as great as the first.
For any of you who have experienced this hassle, don’t give up. There is an easy way to make homemade bread and anyone can do it. You don’t need a bread maker or any special tools.
After about 4 months of experimenting I came across an interview with the authors of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day on a Splendid Table radio program. This recipe was eye opening. I had heard of no knead bread making before, but did not remember exactly what it was called and could not find a recipe on the Internet.
Of course you can now find no knead bread recipes everywhere. King Arthur Flour even started publishing the recipes in their catalog. Also, Jim Lahey, the founder of this revolutionary bread making method released his book this past October. There are also many other no knead bread baking cookbooks.
Below is my recipe, adapted from the basic recipe in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Once you try this recipe, the whole world of bread baking opens up to you. You will think twice before purchasing grocery store bread again.
FYI: I priced the white dough at $0.50 per batch (using yeast bought in a 1 lb. bag)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 2 or more hours (for rising)
Cook Time: 50 minutes for a loaf, 20-25 minutes for a small round
Serves: 1 loaf or 2-4 small round loaves
1 ½ cups warm water (about 110 degrees, no hotter than 115)
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt,or to taste – I have found that Trader Joe’s fine sea salt offers the best flavor, but any fine salt will work (do not use iodized salt)
2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
3 cups white all-purpose flour, spoon scooped into the measuring cup and leveled off
A plastic container with a non-air tight lid for rising and storage. I like a plastic juice pitcher.
Pour the warm water in a bowl. Add the yeast, salt, and sugar. Stir to combine. Add the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Place the dough ball in the plastic container and cover with lid. It will be wet and sticky. Let rise until double in size. This will take about 2 hours, depending on the warmth of the environment.
Once it doubles you may use it right away, or store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
For loaf bread in a loaf pan: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator; sprinkle working surface, hands, and top of dough with plenty of flour. Turn dough onto work surface. Gather dough in a bunch at the base to form a smooth top. Place in a greased loaf pan smooth side up. Let sit for 30 minutes or until rises to desired height. Bake in 375 degree oven for about 50 minutes.
For loaves using an oven/pizza stone: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove dough from the refrigerator; sprinkle working surface, hands, and top of dough with plenty of flour. Take at least a grapefruit sized amount of dough from the container and turn dough onto work surface. Gather dough in a bunch at the base to form a smooth top. Place on a wood board covered in cornmeal or flour and let sit for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes slide onto the hot stone and bake in 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
You can also use all the dough and shape it into a French Baguette, let rise slightly, cut 3 diagonal slits in the top of the loaf. And bake it on a stone at 425 degrees F for about 30-35 minutes.
For extra crispness spray the hot oven with water just after the dough is placed in and/or fill an ovenproof metal dish with water and place on the bottom of the oven.
Alternately, you could also place the dough on a baking sheet, but it may not get quite as crispy.