Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Food win: crusty bread

For Christmas I asked for--and received--My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method.  I have made a lot of delicious, bakery-worthy bread since then.  It's crusty and chewy and delicious and really, really bad for your waistline.

One thing you'll need is a large (about 5 quart) cast iron casserole.  Do not buy an expensive La Creuset; you do not need to spend $300 on something that will require you to remove the lid handle (as you bake the bread in oven temperatures too hot for the plastic).  If you have an enamel cast-iron casserole, use it (and sometimes you can find one in yard sales); take out the lid handle and stuff the hole full of aluminum foil.  If you are determined to make this bread, have $30 burning a hole in your pocket and think buying a new pot is worth it (and don't want to hit the yard sales), The Lodge has a great seasoned cast iron casserole.

The other thing you will need is time.  You don't knead the bread but you let it rise for 12-18 hours the first time, and then 1-2 hours the second time.  Time this for when you will be able to bake it (I'm busy enough that the proofing time wasn't a problem per se, but figuring out when I could start it so the second rise would be done and I'd have time to bake the bread before going off to my next thing to do was a challenge.)

The book also has recipes for whole wheat bread, rye bread, focaccia, pizza dough, and a bunch of other breads.  But master this one first.  It's not difficult at all.

It's worth it, though.  The ingredients for the bread are typical--flour, yeast (a relatively small amount, thanks to the long proofing time), salt and water.  The results are divine.  The bread tastes like it should be much harder to make than it is.


  1. Pamela, do you bake it with the lid on, or just let it rise that way? I'm thinking through what I have in terms of stock pots, dutch ovens. When I bake sandwich bread I take the time to knead properly, but otherwise, I'm a lazy baker. I hardly knead stuff like pizza dough, focaccia and buns. This does sound interesting, though. Years ago we'd bake bread in coffee cans. (anybody remember Laurel's Kitchen?) Now I think there's some concern over the soldering in the seam on the can.

  2. The instructions are to bake it with the lid on in a 475 degree preheated oven for 30 minutes, then with the lid off for 15-30 minutes more, until the crust gets brown but not burnt. You want the lid on, and you want a very substantial pot like a cast iron casserole in order to trap the moisture and keep it in the pot while the bread bakes--that is what makes the crust so thick and chewy.

  3. This makes me hungry! I have a deep skillet and a Dutch oven, both cast iron, both Lodge, both ready for bread! And, I hate to knead.

  4. I have been trying for years to make bread that looks like this! I have tried every method for getting the appropriate steam level in my little oven.. pan of water in the bottom etc. I have the "Tartine" bread book that is helpful, but I'm still at a loss... I plan to check this one out.. .and I need to suck it up and buy myself a cast iron casserole. I don't know why I waited so long!