I am a habitual lurker on food blogs. I admit it. I own many cookbooks; so many that confessing the actual number here would be somewhat embarrassing. But when I’m searching for inspiration for my next meals, instead of flipping through the multitude of physical books I have on hand, I find myself turning time and again to those blogs. I don’t necessarily see myself being a source of inspiration to others, but after spending so much time on the periphery of such a great community, I decided I’d at least like to keep a sort of record of the food I make.
I don’t have many pretty dishes or platters for food styling, and I just purchased my first digital camera a few months ago. I am not a professional chef or writer, but hopefully my enthusiasm for the subject will make up for any deficiencies in all of these areas. I love food. I love cooking. I love using ingredients that are new to me. I found myself at the Bread Garden Market in downtown Iowa City yesterday, wishing I had brought my camera so I could have taken pictures of the mammoth carrots in the produce section. Honestly, biggest carrots I have ever seen. That may cross the line from enthusiasm into obsession, but I don’t think so.
I’m starting simple, with a recipe that has already been around the Internet and back: the No-Knead Bread featured in the New York Times in November 2006. I love a fresh loaf of crusty bread, but I’m not in love with kneading the dough. And that makes this the perfect bread for me! I’ve made numerous loaves since the recipe was unveiled, and each one was just as tasty as the first. It is ideal for grilled cheese or for sopping up the last of the soup in your bowl.
This bread will stay good for 4-5 days when wrapped in plastic and left on the counter, although it does lose some of it’s crustiness after the first day. A smaller, round Le Creuset 4-quart cast iron dutch oven is my go-to vessel for this bread. I unscrew the handle on the lid before placing it in the oven, but it should be safe to 450 degrees. Go bake some. Now.
Yields one 1 ½ pound loaf
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
- In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons water and stir until blended – dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rest 12-20 hours at room temperature.
- Dough is ready when the surface appears to be dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes.
- Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour; place dough seam side down on towel and dust the top of the dough with more flour. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours.
- At least 30 min. before the dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 4 to 8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is fine. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.