(Photo by Mark Luinenburg)
Baking bread was never my thing. I convinced myself it was too complicated until one day my neighbor Sarah from across the street brought me an Artisan loaf of bread she had just baked. Oh my word, it was amazing. This would be my first experience tasting no-knead bread but far from my last.
Since then I’ve been making beautiful, crusty, rustic no-knead bread for the last two years. To make the dough, all I do is mix a flour, yeast, salt, and water in a bowl with a spoon. It usually takes me about two minutes – no kneading required. Had I known how easy it was to make bread I would had never bought those expensive $5 Artisan loaves.
My method of preparing no-knead bread produces one loaf. But my friends Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, authors of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, developed a method of making a large batch of no-knead bread so you can pull a small section of dough off from the initial dough and bake it. This way you can make enough dough for four loaves in a few minutes and have bread all week long.
I had the pleasure of asking them a few questions about no-knead bread earlier in the week. I hope it motivates you to try this revolutionary process of making bread at home.
1. Some people may find baking bread time consuming and labor intense without having ever baked a loaf. Is baking bread hard or time consuming?
This is exactly why we wrote the book. I have been teaching baking classes for years and people would always tell me how they never bake bread because they are afraid of the yeast, or they just didn’t have time. Jeff and I wanted to take all of the intimidation out of bread baking and create a method that would be fast and easy enough to do every day.
2. How cost effective is to bake your own bread at home?
The ingredients for our stuff cost about 40 to 60 cents for a one-pound loaf. The ingredients are so basic, just flour, water, salt and yeast. We recommend some equipment for baking a great loaf of bread, but you can get started with nothing more than a loaf pan and a hot oven.
3. What tips do you have for baking with kids?
Start them young and by the time they are 10, they are baking the bread themselves. When my boys were really little I would give them a piece of dough and they would form it into Pokemon characters or monsters. Now that they are 10 and 12 years old they make pizzas all by themselves, with a little help getting them in the oven. They have even baked them for babysitters. Now I just need to work on the cleanup!
Great advice guys, thank you!
Here is the Master Bread recipe from their book. Enjoy!
Reprinted with permission from authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
Recipe: Healthy Bread in Five Minutes
Makes enough dough for at least four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.
- 5 1/2 cups Whole wheat flour
- 2 cups All-purpose flour, unbleached
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (2 packets) Granulated Yeast
- 1/4 cup Vital wheat gluten
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 cups Lukewarm water
- Cornmeal or parchment paper
- Measure the dry ingredients: Use dry-ingredient measuring cups to gently scoop up flour from a bin, then sweep the top level with a knife or spatula. Whisk together the flours, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten in a 5 quart bowl, or, preferable, in a resealable, lidded plastic food container or food-grade bucket (not airtight).
- Mix with water-kneading is unnecessary: Warm the water until it feels slightly warmer than body temperature (about 100 degrees F). Add all at once to the dry ingredients and mix without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you're not using a machine. Using warm water will allow the dough to rise fully in about 2 hours. Don't knead! It isn't necessary. You're finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. This step is done in a matter of minutes, and will yield a dough that is wet and remains loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.
- Allow to rise: Cover the dough with a lid (not airtight) that fits well to the container. If you are using a bowl, cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Lidded (or even vented) plastic buckets designed for dough storage are readily available; leave it open a crack for the first 48 hours to prevent buildup of gases; after that you can usually seal it. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approximately 2 hours, depending on the room's temperature and the initial water temperature. Longer rising times, even overnight, will not harm the result. After rising, refrigerate in the lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 14 days. Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature. So, the first time you try our method, it's best to refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours), before shaping a loaf. Once refrigerated, the dough will seem to have shrunk back upon itself. It will never rise again in the bucket, which is normal for our dough. Whatever you do, do not punch dough this dough! With our method, you're trying to retain as much gas in the dough as possible, and punching it down knocks gas out and will make your laves denser.
- Shape a loaf in 20-40 seconds. First, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal (or lining it with parchment paper, or use a silicone mat) to prevent your loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. Dust the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife or kitchen shears. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom of all four sides, rotating a quarter-turn as you go to form a ball. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it's not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the ball may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking. The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 20-40 seconds. If you work the dough longer than this, it might make your loaf dense.
- Form a narrow oval-shaped loaf and let it rest: Stretch the ball gently to elongate it, and taper the ends by rolling them between your palms and pinching them.
- Paint and slash: Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top with water. Slash the loaf with 1/4-inch deep parallel cuts across the top. Use a serrated bread knife held perpendicularly to the bread.
- Baking with steam: After a 30-minute preheat, you're ready to bake, even thyough your oven thermometer might not yet be up to full temperature. With a quick forward-jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the preheated baking stone. If you used parchment paper instead of cornmeal, it will slide onto the stone with the loaf, and if you used a silicone mat or cookie sheet, just place it on the stone. Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water from the tap into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch. If you used parchment paper, a silicone mat, or a cookie sheet under the loaf, carefully remove it and bake the loaf directly on the stone or on an oven rack two-thirds of the way through baking. When you remove the loaf from the oven, it may audibly crackle, or "sing," when initially exposed to room-temperature air. Allow the bred to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack, for best flavor, texture, and slicing. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.
- Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 14 days.