28 Sep 2011
I have been wanting to try this bread for ages, and now I finally have all the tools! There has been buzz for a long time over Jim Lahey‘s revolutionary baking method, and, let me tell you, it more than lives up to the hype! What would you say if I told you that you could have amazing oven-fresh bread for literally about 60 seconds of actual work? No kneading, no slowly working flour into the dough…it is amazing!
One of our wonderful friends gave us Jim Lahey’s cookbook My Bread for our wedding, and we also got a nice cast-iron Dutch oven for baking. That’s all you really need. We have a shiny new Le Creuset, but the little plastic handle on the top is not rated highly enough for the baking temperature, and I couldn’t bear to disassemble it, so we just bought a Lodge Dutch oven–they are pretty cheap and work perfectly for this recipe (in the 5-6 quart size).
I love bread and always have (what did I ask for for my 16th birthday? A bread maker. I was thrilled when I got it, and I used it until I broke it!) A few years ago I decided that it was time for me to learn to bake bread (in all the fervor following a crazy year spent studying for quals). I started with Bittman‘s recipe and some baguettes, and I learned as I went. Eventually I started making boules, since they’re a bit easier and better for sandwiches, and then my awesome friend Steve showed me how the shape the dough more tightly, which was a huge improvement over how I was doing it. After a while, I was baking bread pretty much all the time, stirring and kneading and scoring and trying to get dough out from under my fingernails.
It’s not that I mind any of this, but I am having fun experimenting with new ways of doing things. I tried making dough in the food processor (brilliant, brilliant invention, and I love that it is called “robot culinaire” in French! Yes, a culinary robot!), and that was great. And then I tried it Jim Lahey’s way. Oh, wow.
It’s so easy to mix the ingredients that you don’t even need the food processor. It takes 30 seconds of stirring, no more, and then you get to take an 18-hour break, during which time the dough rises and ferments, and any dry bits of flour are drawn in and moistened.
Then you just spend about 30 seconds shaping it into a ball and give it a few more hours to rise. Heat your Dutch oven, throw the bread in, and that’s it!
And, of course, the bread is completely delicious. Since I baked it, I have been eating nothing but tomato and cheese sandwiches. I will be sad when it’s gone! But then I will just start again, since 60 seconds is definitely something I have to spare, especially in exchange for such deliciousness! Happy baking!
3 c (400 gr) bread flour
1 1/4 tsp (8 gr) salt (I used Kosher salt)
1/4 tsp (1 gr) instant or other active dry yeast
1 1/3 c (300 gr) cool water (55-65 degrees F)
Wheatbran, cornmeal, or flour for dusting (I used flour, but next time will try cornmeal)
-In a medium bowl, blend the dry ingredients. Add the water and stir with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds. The dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl and let rise for 12-18 hours, until it is doubled in size and the top is covered with bubbles.
-When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a rubber spatula to turn the dough out onto the work surface in one piece. Using lightly floured hands, turn the sides of the dough up to form a ball, tucking in any loose edges for a clean, round shape.
-Place a cotton or linen tea towel on the work surface and generously dust it with flour (or bran or cornmeal). Lift the dough gently onto the towel, so the seam is facing down. Dust the top of the bread lightly with flour. Fold the ends of the towel over the dough loosely and let it rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
-30 minutes before the end of the second rise, heat the oven to 475 degrees F and place the covered Dutch oven in the center of the rack.
-Using potholders, carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven and remove the top. Unfold the tea towel and gently but quickly turn it into the pot. Remember that it is very hot! Cover the Dutch oven and bake for 30 minutes.
-Remove the lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more (mine was done in 15). Use a heatproof spatula to carefully life the bread out of the Dutch oven and place it on a rack to cool for 1 hour. Enjoy!