Michael Pollan introduced me to the New York Times No-Knead recipe ( Yes, I will post a tutorial on how to do this) For those who haven’t had the opportunity to make a no knead bread, it is very easy, but requires planning and time. The No -Knead technique results in an artisan style loaf that has a crust that makes it fantastic for a bowl of soup or charcuterie board however, it is not easy to cut to make a sandwich for the kid’s lunches. Our oldest Son that he loves it but finds it quite tough on the roof of his mouth. So I then poured over through my recipes I had collected over the years and of course, the internet to find a new easy recipe that could hopefully satisfy everyone in the house. The internet is filled with so-called winning recipes of no fail loaves and I’m adding to the glut by posting this myself. I used to work at a bakery that specialized in breads and French Toutiere when I was going to college so I have a pretty good idea of how to fiddle with a bread recipe and how a dough should react and feel when trying to create a new bread recipe. After a few failed loaves that became croutons, I came up with a recipe that will please the soft crust crowd and is perfect for all the jam everyone is making or eating right now.
What you need:
2 1/4 tsp. Dry yeast or 1 packet ( I buy a bag of dry yeast from Costco, give away half to a friend and keep the rest in the freezer)
2 -1/4 Cup to 2 1/3 cup of warm water. I just run the tap on hot to fill my sink with water for the inevitable dishes. No kettle needed.
3 Tbs. Sugar
1 Tbs. Salt
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
Approx. 6 1/2 Cup Flour – You made need a little less or a little more depending on the weather or how much moisture is in your flour.
Add all of the above ingredients together in a mixer but starting off with only 3 cups of your flour. Stir on low speed till fully mixed using your dough hook. If you are mixing by hand, I would start off with the same amount of flour otherwise the dough is way too sticky and it’s so hard to work with.
Continue to add the flour at about 1/2 cup at a time till fully incorporated being cautious when you are nearing the 6 cup mark. At this point, I would start adding the flour 1 tablespoon at a time while still mixing to make sure you don’t add in too much. Too much flour will result is a dry and heavy loaf. The yeast wont be able to support the flour trying to rise.
Your ideal dough should be smooth and elastic so continue to mix for about 5 minutes or knead by hand till it’s not crumbly or falling apart each time you are until you turning it over to work it. It should be elastic but not sticking to your fingers sticky. I usually poke it and the dough should come back to normal and then I know it’s ready.
Bread making takes practice so be patient and take your time with it. Don’t be upset if it fails, make croutons or dry it out to make breadcrumbs. I’ve been making bread for over 30 years and sometimes it fails. That’s when you put on the kettle and get the butter and jam out and nobody cares when it’s covered with them.
When your dough is ready, take it off the hook or get a bowl ready and grease the bottom of the bowl with some butter or olive oil ( that’s what I used) and turn it over once. This is done so the top of the dough doesn’t dry out.
Next you want to proof your bread. Proofing means to make the dough ferment therefore, the dough will rise. I usually cover it with a kitchen towel and then put in my oven for about 1 to 1/2 hours to 2 hours. The oven has NOT been preheated by the way. I do that because I have a very, very small kitchen with limited counter space and I need it out of the way. If it’s the winter time, I preheat my oven to 175C for 5 minutes and use that to encourage rising as I live in a very cold home. My Mom used to use a heating pad to encourage rising when she used to come over and make bread.
After it has pretty much doubled in size, I punch the dough down and divide it into two halves. I then put it onto a very lightly floured countertop and shape each half into a loaf.
As you can see, my loaves are a little uneven ( I was in a rush) but I shaped them as best I can. You shape them by gently folding the dough in half and then again and then making sure that the pinched ends are on the bottom of the loaf. There are several different methods of shaping dough but this is how I prefer to do it.
I then place each loaf into a greased bread pan ( 9 x 5 inch) and then cover them again with a kitchen towel in a do a second rise till doubled in size. This will take about 45 minutes depending on how warm your house is.
While the bread is rising, this is when I preheat my oven to 375 C.
When the shaped loaves has doubled, prepare the bread by brushing the top with some room temperature milk.
Then into the preheated oven they go.
Bake at 375 C for about 25 minutes. I always set my oven timer for 20 minutes to monitor how it’s coming along and just to give me a reminder to keep myself nearby 375 C is a pretty high temperature for a bread recipe so I have to keep an eye on it. At around the 25 to 30 minute mark, it should be golden brown and ready.
Remove from the oven and take the bread out of their pans and place them on a wire rack to cool. To take them out of the pan, just lightly tap the side of the pan on the counter and the bread will slide out pretty easily. The trick is not to tap it or bang it too hard, plus the bread is hot and hasn’t set yet so that means you can damage it. The wire rack ensures that the bread cools down evenly and releases any extra moisture so you don’t end up with soggy bread.
The result is a moist soft crust bread ( if not mis-matched in size) which makes it perfect for young children or seniors (or anyone really). I hope you get a chance to try out this recipe. Let me know if you do or if you have any questions.