I realize that Benjamin Franklin thought ‘Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy’ – and, quite frankly, most men would agree. I prefer to think that bread is the proof. I could be cheeky here and say that bread is living (yeast) and we do proof it (raising) before baking – but I will stop myself.
I prefer to think – and most women would agree – that Jim Lahey’s book My Bread is living proof that Jim loves us and wants to be happy and have wonderful breads to eat!
If your day starts out with wonderful toast made from the simplest bread in this book (pictured above), your day would start off happy.
- 3 C bread flour
- 1 1/4 t table salt
- 1/4 t instant yeast
- 1 1/3 C cool water
- wheat bran, cornmeal or additional flour for dusting
NOTE: I used Kosher salt. I always use Kosher salt when baking bread.
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, yeast and salt. Add water. Using a wooden spoon or your hand (yuck) mix until you have a wet sticky dough. About 30 seconds. Make sure the dough is shaggy and sticky to the touch. If not add another tablespoon or 2 of water.
NOTE: I find a wooden spoon doesn’t mix it as well as sticking your hands in there. Tough getting the shaggy dough off your fingers though!
Cover bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let dough sit at room temperature, until the dough surface is dotted with bubbles and has more than doubled in size. This will be at least 12 hours, preferably about 18.
NOTE: My bowl sat on my range top in between the pilot lights – very warm there. I sometimes leave it int he microwave to raise, but have found that someone is always using it and moving the dough around too much! THe longer it raises the better off you are.
Once the dough surface is dotted with bubbles, flour a work surface. Using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto the board in one piece. When you start to pull the dough away from the bowl it will cling in thin, long strands – this is the developed gluten – and will be very loose and sticky.
NOTE: Again, hands are definitely easier!
Using slightly floured hands, lift edges of dough toward center. Nudge and tuck the edges of the dough to make a round. Place a cotton tea towel on the work surface and dust with wheat bran, cornmeal or flour. Gently lift the dough and place on tea towel seam side down. Fold ends of towel over dough and place in a warm spot for 1 to 2 hours. Once the dough is doubled in size it is ready.
NOTE: When you think it’s ready, poke the dough with your finger. If the poke stays, it’s ready. If it bounces back, let it rise another 15 minutes.
About half an hour before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Make sure the rack is in the lower third of the oven. Place a heavy covered 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 quart pot in the oven to preheat.
NOTE: I have a Lodge castiron 5 quart pot. This is an absolute work horse and is perfect for this recipe!
Making sure to use potholders, carefully remove pot from oven. Remove cover. Sprinkle top of dough with wheat bran, cornmeal or flour. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot to the dough is now seam side up. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes.
NOTE: POT IS SERIOUSLY HOT!! BE CAREFUL!!
Remove cover and bake another 15 to 30 minutes.
Once loaf is a beautiful deep chestnut color, carefully take pot out of oven.
NOTE: That deep color is really what you want and the bread only gets there once you take the cover off and the steam starts to evaporate.
With a heatproof spatula or pot holders, carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place on a rack to cool.
I know it looks tempting, but don’t tear into or slice the bread until it’s cooled, about an hour.
NOTE: Seems like a LOT of steps. It is a lot of steps. But they are mostly quick steps with a lot of waiting in between. I used cornmeal. I wasn’t going to buy wheat bran to have on hand for 1 or 2 recipes. This recipe is the basis for most of the recipes in this wonderful book. Once you get the hang of this – and it isn’t difficult – you can move on to bigger and better bread baking projects!
(adapted from Jim Lahey’s Basic No_knead Bread Recipe)