No Knead Artisan Bread

I did make this delight a few times recently, but the day I had planned on photographing the bread it got devoured before I had the chance to write about it. So I thought I ought to have another go while the children were all off being lazy elsewhere, they are all recovering from their pantomime show last night.

The bread I made today was AMAZING. The real deal, crusty, rustic, artisan bread with a thick chewy crust and a white fluffy centre. I had this recipe for a while and have always had good results. However I am the sort of person who wants to turn good results into something better, so I researched artisan bread baking methods extensively. I don’t always like using a yeast starter, I am a simpler girl than that and yeast starters need attention every day. This bread recipe suits the busy lifestyle I have perfectly, as I can use dried yeast that comes in sachets from the supermarket. The yeast I buy costs about 10p a sachet so it’s cheap enough that I don’t feel bad about using them. Anyway I think I got the formula just right, if you pay attention to the small detail and you will replicate the same fabulous bread that my family enjoyed today.

No Knead Artisan Bread

Ingredients

Based on the 5 minute no knead bread method which seems to be popular on the internet. I wish I could attribute this to a single person but there are so many variations of this recipe out there I can’t. I like this recipe as there is no weighing involved so it is super easy when you are in a hurry to prepare.

6.5 cups strong white bread flour

2 sachets of yeast

1.5 tablespoons salt

3 cups warm water

A sprinkling Rice flour/cornmeal

Method

This method I give is very specific, it’s based on a number of techniques that I have pulled together and used to create my perfect artisan bread.

Measure out the flour in a large bowl.

Mix the salt and yeast into the water, this sounds like it’s going against everything you have learned about yeast and salt. Please just go with this.

Quickly mix the liquid into the flour bowl and using a large spoon mix until it’s all combined. Don’t knead, don’t use dough hooks, don’t do anything to it.

Put the bowl of dough on your worktop, covered with cling film, and let it rest for two and a half hours. It will rise, then you can put it in the fridge. Keep your dough for 24 hours, or longer in the fridge. The longer you keep it, the better the bread you get. Don’t keep it more than two weeks though.

When you are ready to bake bread grab some of the dough from the bowl. You can make two or three loaves from the recipe amount.

Very gently knead your dough into shape. When I say knead it’s not even a proper knead, just sort of stretch the edges round to form a ball. Very little handling is all that is required.

Leave your dough to rise in a banneton basket sprinkled with rice flour. You could use anything at this point, a basin, whatever you usually use to shape and rise your dough in. This stage will take 30 minutes to an hour, the dough will not double in size, it will just feel less sticky and more behaving if you poke it.

Meanwhile heat your oven to 240C/470F, this is an important factor as previously I only ever took my oven to 200/220C and I believe this new high temperature went some of the way to achieve the good results I got today.

Put your pizza stone or baking tray in the centre rack of you oven to warm too. Everything has to be super hot, maybe a 20 to 30 minute heat to achieve the temperatures required. Your pizza stone will almost be smoking. Place a metal dish or an enamelled pie dish in the bottom shelf.

Once you are preheated pour 1/4 cup of water in to the metal dish. And leave it for about five minutes till it starts steaming.

Meanwhile tip your bread onto a non stick baking parchment sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. The cornmeal will stop it from sticking. I have Teflon type sheets but I still use the cornmeal. Cut the top of your bread to allow for some controlled expansion.

Now you are ready to bake, your metal dish is steaming, your pizza stone is hot and your oven is hot.

Slide your baking sheet and dough onto the heated pizza stone. Close your oven and set a timer for ten minutes.

At ten minutes in open the oven door wide and lift out the metal dish with the water in. You want the steam to leave the oven, this is important.

Close the oven, reduce the temperature to 220C/425F and bake for approximately another 20 minutes.

Check your bread at this point and it needs to be a very dark brown, proper crusty texture. When you reach this stage lift your bread out and place it on a cooling rack.

If you have followed all these steps your bread will sing to you. Listen carefully and you will hear it crackling and crunching as it cools. Hopefully you will see hairline cracks in your crust too, this is perfection. The cracking and singing sounds are the sign of a wonderful loaf, if you don’t get the sounds and cracks don’t dismay, you can always eat the beautifully baked evidence and try again.

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