My husband has been in a major bread baking phase for the past month or so.  And he is STILL trying to come up with a post for me about his adventures in sourdough.  His recipe is delicious, but long and slightly labor intensive.  I’ve been seeing tons of no-knead recipes around the web, and decided that for once I would try and make bread.  I also wanted some sort of artisan loaf, as his sourdough is quite dense (but makes the BEST toast you have ever had).  We’ve asked Santa for a few bread baking books for Christmas…I don’t think we’ll ever go back to buying bread at the grocery store, much like we won’t be ordering pizza anytime soon.

I set to the internet to find a good recipe that didn’t take too long, and didn’t make way too much bread.  Some recipes made multiple loaves, but the one I found and tried was perfect, it made just one, and takes very little work.  You do have to start at least 12 hours ahead of time, but that’s the perfect thing about the weekend, you can make the dough on Saturday, and have delicious bread to go with your Sunday dinner.

The recipe I used was from notmartha.org.

3 cups bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant [or Rapid Rise, QuickRise, Instant Active Dry, Perfect Rise, or Bread Machine Yeast] yeast
1 1/4 [1 3/4] teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky (I happened to use my stand mixer with the dough hook).  Transfer to bowl greased with a little olive oil, and let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees (the top of your fridge is a perfect spot for this).

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice (I cheated and kneaded it a little, it’s a force of habit).   Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal (after reading some of the comments, I went WAY overboard with the flour, as you can see by my photo, I definitely didn’t need nearly as much as I used) put dough seam side down on towel(I used parchment paper, I love that stuff) and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger (mine didn’t quite double, but it was still delicious).

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven.  Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned.  Cool on a rack and enjoy.

Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.

The bread is delicious and airy with an awesomely crusty crust (my favorite), but not super flavorful.  I think next time I might add in a little whole wheat flour to change things up a bit.  But the key is to use rapid rise yeast and bread flour (NOT all purpose)…I can’t really remember why, when my husband goes into the science of bread I kind of tune out…it has something to do with more complex glutens or something.  Just take my word for it, bread flour!

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