Monday, February 8, 2016

No-Knead Crusty White Bread

Updated August 2019 

I love a good rustic crusty white bread. There's just something earthy about it that makes you want to bake a loaf or 2 or 3 and then slather a slice with some fresh creamed butter.

What could be better than an easy homemade bread, you can store the dough in the refrigerator and bake several loaves, or hard rolls, over a week? 

Simply grab a hunk of dough out whenever you want. Yummmm!!! Better yet, you can make it any shape you want; oblong, round or shape into rolls.

It is great served with soup, awesome used for hearty sandwiches, sliced and served as bruschetta or crostini, or simply dipped in some yummy olive oil, it's all good to me.

This bread has a very nice crispy crust, and a delicious, soft dough interior ... it performed exactly as the original recipe said it would. It is delicious and a new family favorite. (Original recipe from King Arthur Flour)

3 cups lukewarm water
6 1/2 to 7 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbls. salt
1 1/2 tbls. instant or active dry yeast
* See "tips" below

*The flour/liquid ratio is important in this recipe. If you measure flour by sprinkling it into your measuring cup, then gently sweeping off the excess, use 7 1/2 cups. If you measure flour by dipping your cup into the canister, then sweeping off the excess, use 6 1/2 cups. Most accurate of all, and guaranteed to give you the best results, if you measure flour by weight, use 32 ounces.

*Bread rising tip - turn oven on to 400 degrees for one minute. Turn oven off and put dough inside oven to rise.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or a large (6-quart), food-safe plastic bucket. For first-timers, "lukewarm" means about 105°F, but don't stress over getting the temperatures exact here. Comfortably warm is fine.

Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don't have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a big spoon or dough whisk until everything is combined.

Next, you're going to let the dough rise. If you've made the dough in a plastic bucket, you're all set - just let it stay there, covering the bucket with a lid or plastic wrap. If you've made the dough in a bowl that's not at least 6-quart capacity, transfer it to a large bowl; it's going to rise a lot. There's no need to grease the bowl, though you can if you like; it makes it a bit easier to get the dough out when it's time to bake bread.

Cover the bowl or bucket, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. (If you're pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it'll get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it'll rise, then fall. That's OK; that's what it's supposed to do.

When you're ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough. It'll be about the size of a softball, or a large grapefruit.

Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball, or an oblong loaf. Don't fuss around trying to make it perfect; just do the best you can. If you are making an oblong loaf, pat the dough out on a lightly floured surface, then roll up jelly roll fashion, pinching ends to seal. The same is true with small rolls which will become hard rolls. Just use smaller amounts of dough and shape into several rolls.

Place the loaf on a piece of parchment (if you're going to use a baking stone); or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the bread moist as it rests before baking.

Let the loaf warm to room temperature and rise; this should take about 60 minutes (or longer, up to a couple of hours, if your house is cool). It won't appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it'll seem to settle and expand. (see bread rising tip above).

Preheat your oven to 450°F while the loaf rests. If you're using a baking stone, position it on a middle rack while the oven preheats. Place a shallow metal or cast iron pan (not glass, Pyrex, or ceramic) on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go, or fill the pan partially with hot water and place it inside the oven while preheating and leave it in while baking (just be careful when opening the oven as the steam is very hot - this is my preferred method).

When you're ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2" deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that's OK, it'll pick right up in the hot oven. Brush tops with water and sprinkle on poppy seeds or sesame seeds if using.

Place the bread in the oven - onto the baking stone, if you're using one, or simply onto a middle rack, if it's on a pan - and carefully pour the 1 cup hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It'll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly (Skip this step if you already partially filled the pan with hot water).

Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it's a deep, golden brown.

Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

To reheat: Preheat oven to 350 and heat bread for 5-7 minutes.



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