Thursday, November 29, 2012

Artisan Country Peasant Bread – No Knead Recipe

This is a simple recipe that will provide bread for you table in just a few short hours.  It is a dense hearty bread that your family will fall in love with again and again.  Your guests will assume that you purchased it at the bakery downtown.  This loaf is perfect by itself, with some butter, cheeses or with your favorite soup. 


4 cups (1 lb. 2 oz.) all-purpose flour1
2 tsps kosher salt
2 cups lukewarm water2
1 TBLS sugar
2 tsps active-dry yeast3

2 TBLS butter, room temperature

1 Measure scant cups of flour if you are not measuring by weight: scoop flour into the measuring cup using a separate spoon or measuring cup; level off with a knife. The flour should be below the rim of the measuring cup.  Other flour blends are 1 cup graham flour and 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour. Also, you can use as many as 3 cups of whole wheat flour, but the texture changes considerably. I suggest trying with all all-purpose or bread flour to start and once you get the hang of it, later start trying various combinations of whole wheat flour and/or other flours.

2 Water that’s too hot can kill yeast - to make fool-proof lukewarm water that will not kill the yeast - boil some water — I use my teapot.  Then, mix 1½ cups cold water with ½ cup boiling water.  This ratio of hot to cold water will be the perfect temperature for the yeast.

3 If you are using the packets of yeast (the kind that come in the 3-fold packets), go ahead and use a whole packet — it’s 2.25 teaspoons. I made the bread with active dry and rapid rise and instant yeast, and all varieties work.  If you use bulk yeast, you can store it in the freezer and it keeps very well.

Note: This is a very wet, no-knead dough so some sort of baking vessel, such as Pyrex bowls (about 1-L or 1.5 L) loaves is required to bake this bread.

1.  Put flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to mix.

2. In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar into the water.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top.  There is no reason to stir it up.  Let it stand for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the mixture is foamy and/or bubbling just a bit — this step is just to ensure that the yeast is active.  Now, gently stir it up, and add to the flour bowl.  Stir this mixture up with a spatula or wooden spoon.  Mixture will be very wet.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel.

3. Cover bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for at least an hour.  It usually takes about an hour to double in bulk, but letting it rise for an hour and a half or up to two hours is fine.

4. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.  Grease two oven-safe bowls with about a tablespoon of butter each.  Using two forks, punch down your dough, scraping it from the sides of the bowl, which it will cling to.  As you scrape it down turn the dough up onto itself. You want to loosen the dough entirely from the sides of the bowl and you want to make sure you’ve punched it down.  Take your two forks and divide the dough into two equal portions — eye the center of the mass of dough and starting from the center work out, pull the dough apart with the two forks. Then scoop up each half and place into your pre-buttered bowls.  This part can be messy — the dough is very wet.  Using small forks or forks with short tines makes this easier.  It’s best to scoop it up fast and plop it in the bowl in one fell swoop.  Let the dough rise for about 30 minutes or until it has risen to just below or above (depending on which size bowl you are using) the top of the bowls.

5. Bake for 10 minutes at full heat.  Reduce the heat to 375ºF and bake for 22 - 25 minutes longer.  Remove from the oven and turn the loaves onto cooling racks. If you’ve greased the bowls well, the loaves should fall right out onto the cooling racks. If the loaves look a little pale and soft when you’ve turned them out onto your cooling racks, place the loaves into the oven (outside of their bowls) and let them bake for about 5 minutes longer.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

The finished loaf is golden brown and delicious.  You're ready to revel in your afternoon's work.

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