When there is no need to knead, & when the bread talks to you, what are you waiting for?
For those of you who are still contemplating taking the first step to baking a loaf at home, this is for you, a Bread in a pot. The unbelievably great crackling crumb, the hole-some lightness, awesome flavor — all come from no kneading, a long fermentation, & a hot pot.
Published in 2006 in the New York Times, Mark Bittman’s article about Sullivan Street Bakery owner Jim Lahey’s magical new no-knead bread-making method created quite a revolution. Bittman says -”The dough is so sticky that you couldn’t knead it if you wanted to. It is mixed in less than a minute, then sits in a covered bowl, undisturbed, for about 18 hours. It is then turned out onto a board for 15 minutes, quickly shaped (I mean in 30 seconds), and allowed to rise again, for a couple of hours. Then it’s baked. That’s it.”
It is a simple method of making a wet, sticky dough with flour, water and a little bit of yeast -barely folding it up to a ball – and then letting it ferment slowly for a long long time & then plopping it into a “blazing hot” pot with a lid to bake. Harold McGee, an amateur bread maker validates saying “The long, slow rise does over hours what intensive kneading does in minutes: it brings the gluten molecules into side-by-side alignment to maximize their opportunity to bind to each other and produce a strong, elastic network. The wetness of the dough is an important piece of this because the gluten molecules are more mobile in a high proportion of water, and so can move into alignment easier and faster than if the dough were stiff.” In the video, Lahey claims a 4-year-old can make this bread.
I did not venture as far as allowing my 3 year old try her hand. While I kept her busy with stirring water & shelling steamed edamammes, my 8 year old measured & mixed up the ingredients to form the sticky dough… yes she did it all by herself, flour till her elbows & on her flying hair.. but it was all worth it.
Recipe has been adapted from the article in NY Times & I have been experimenting for quite a few times now. This is my version, but I would suggest (as per some suggestions from a reader) that you follow the original Lahey recipe. (I have the link of the Article with the recipe) above. For those who are not ready to or prone to experiment like me, that would be the best choice! His video is very good too.
- 2.5 Cups of All Purpose Flour
- 1/4 Tablespoon Dry Active Yeast
- 1.5 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Cup Luke Warm Water
- 1/4 Cup water (more or less)
- 1 Teaspoon Sugar
- Cornmeal or flour for dusting
Stir the sugar in the 1/2 cup luke warm water. Stir in the yeast & let it sit till it gets frothy & rises.
Combine salt & flour. Add the water with yeast & with a with a wooden spoon ( my daughter actually just combined everything with her hands:-D ), combine till it just starts coming together. Add the 1/4 cup water.. more or less if needed. The dough will be kind of sticky.
Cover the bowl where you made the dough & leave it in a warm place overnight, or about 14 hours.
Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
Lightly flour a work surface with cornmeal/flour and place dough on it. Sprinkle some more flour and fold it over on itself a couple of times. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
Shape the dough to a ball, & cover with a damp towel & let it rise for another couple of hours. It will be more than double.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-8 quart heavy duty pot with lid in the oven while the oven heats ( make sure the pot & the lid is oven proof & can withstand the high temperature). I used a Corning/Pyrex with a lid.
When the dough is ready, carefully take out the pot, uncover the lid & plonk the dough ball inside the pan. Cover it back again & bake for about 30 minutes.
At the end of 30 minutes, uncover the lid & bake for another 15 minutes approximately. This allows the so special crust formation.
When done, take it out & ENJOY with all your senses. It is literally a superb 5 sensation! You see how beautiful it is, you smell it, you feel it like your baby, you really hear it & last .. you obviously taste it.
The bread literally sang to me!! I could hear the Crrrrr…. crackle!! & saw the bread cracking all over while it cooled! My goodness, I sat there mesmerized!
More Surprises when I sliced the bread.. Look at those air pockets! The fantastic air holes which I used to so envy are mine now.. mine, mine, mine…
Here is one more -
Now it is time to eat. I very generously slathered some butter on it. Nothing else would have done justice to it. I don’t have to tell you how it tasted right? A warm just baked fluffy light yet chewy bread, with a golden, crunchy singing crust & a thick layer of butter…. go ahead make, you make your own poetry.