Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Favorite Bread

This recipe rocks. There's just no way around that fact. Since my "perfect bread" search has focused on finding a sliceable sandwich bread, I haven't really even bothered much to try recipes for the breads which are actually the ones I prefer to eat: rustic, chewy, textured loaves. When I stumbled across this recipe from King Arthur Flour, the write-up on their website with it's proclamations of ease and rapidity was almost a dare to challenge on a weekday before work. So that is what I did.

Blending together the miniscule ingredients list and then popping the mixture into the fridge with nary a rise nor a knead took me less time in my morning routine than curling my hair. And the results are arguably much better! To keep dinner on schedule when I got home from work, the only advance step was to take out a hunk and form it in a loaf to rise (it only take 45-60 minutes) gave me a chance to change my clothes and even get in a short workout. Then, the oven can preheat and the loaf bakes while I made the rest of the meal and we sit down to dinner with the most amazing fresh bread.

I  made just a half-recipe, and substituted one cup of whole-wheat flour for all-purpose. One loaf I baked that night, the other I baked a week later. Both have impeccable texture for sopping up sauce or broth or olive oil and yet the bread is soft and flavorful enough to eat completely plain. The chewy crust with spongy interior is so much like the best breads we gnoshed on straight out of the bakery bags in France, and to know how easy it is to recreate that at home is delightful. Kudos to King Arthur for their excellent instructions as well... the blog posting about this loaf is very helpful for your first time.

King Arthur Flour's No-Knead Crusty Bread

1 1/2 cups water, 105-115 degrees
1 cup whole wheat bread flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (16 total ounces of flour - whatever ratio of whole wheat you like)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

In bowl of stand mixer, add yeast and water until dissolved. Stir in flour and salt and mix with dough hook until combined. Cover with plastic and allow to rise two hours, or put in the fridge for 8 hours or up to one week. (Yes, up to a week!! You can even put it in the freezer after 24 hours in the fridge... when ready to bake the bread, allow to defrost 24 hours in the fridge, or 6-8 hours on the counter, then follow steps for loaf below.)

Using floured hands, divide dough in half and shape into desired loaf shape: baguette-esque or round or oblong. Allow to rise 45-60 minutes on a sheet of parchment paper. Place a jelly roll pan or other shallow baking pan on lower rack of oven and baking stone or cookie sheet on middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Using a sharp knife, slash top of loaves with three diagonal lines or an X to allow steam to escape during baking. Prepare one cup of hot or boiling water in a measuring cup with spout. Transfer loaves on parchment to baking stone in oven. Pour water into baking pan and quickly close oven, careful of the steam which will be very hot. Bake for 25 or until deep golden. Cool on rack.

This bread keeps well in plastic for about 3 days, but is most delicious when it's fresh and warm.

Here's a batch where I mixed in 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh rosemary to one loaf.


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