If you’re not making your own bread stop what you’re doing right now and take a good hard look at your life. If your answer is, “I don’t eat bread” seek professional help immediately; report back here after reprogramming. If instead you are one of the, “I don’t have time to make bread” people, just imagine that you are one of those weak minded characters from a 1920s black and white movie. You have been driven to hysterics and I’m Clark Gable, come along to smack some sense into you.
You CAN make bread at home, and it’s fantastic. It ISN’T hard, I literally spend a total of less than 5 minutes per loaf. You SHOULD do this, we were spending up to $5 for some of those ‘artisan’ breads and you can make the same thing, at home, for $0.40 in ingredients and $0.10 worth of natural gas. And NO you don’t need a bread maker; in fact you don’t even need to knead it.
I am continually surprised to learn that most people are wholly unaware of the bread revolution that occurred nearly a decade ago. Baker’s had been closely guarding this secret, probably for millennia. Mark Bittman broke open the story in 2006; it turns out you don’t actually have to knead bread!
Kneading is the process where you laboriously massage the dough for half an hour, until it’s soft like a baby’s butt. This process agitates water and flour molecules around, helping them combine. It also warms and stretches the strands of gluten, which is what gives bread it’s final structure. This process is a time honored tradition and it’s completely freaking useless.
It turns out those long strand of gluten will form themselves. All that is required is a more favorable moisture to starch ratio and a bit of time. A traditional bread recipe uses about 3:1 flour to water and takes a few hours. Your no-knead bread is going for a 2:1 ratio and it needs to sit out overnight. That’s really ok, because that long fermentation time lets more flavor develop in bread; especially if you’re making sourdough. Here’s the recipe, along with approximate time requirements.
No Knead Sourdough Bread
3 c flour
1.5 c water
2 t salt
1/4 c sourdough starter
2 T olive oil
Before you start, remember not to throw your whole starter into the recipe! Either scoop some out or combine 1/2 c water and 1/2 c flour with your starter, then put some back in the jar! OK? So now, combine everything else in a bowl and mix until it forms a ‘shaggy dough’. Don’t fuss with getting all the flour mixed in or working out the lumps; that will all take care of itself. Cover with plastic and set out on the counter over night.
Time required: 2 minutes.
After 18-24 hours (minimum 12 for sourdough), generously apply flour to the top of the dough, your counter, and your hands. The dough is super sticky because it has so much moisture. Right now we are just giving it a bit of shape and coating the outside with flour so it doesn’t stick (as much); we are not kneading it!
Turn the dough out onto the flour and just sort of gently work some flour into the surface. Then grabs the sides and fold them under, repeating a couple of times. You’re just trying to get a smooth top and some folds underneath. Finally plop the ball, rough side down, into an oiled bowl or, if you’re nifty like me, a wicker rising basket. Cover again with plastic and let sit in a warm place for 2 hours.
Time require: 2 minutes.
The dough is ready when you can poke it and the dimple you made instantly recovers by about half. Preheat your oven to 450 F. A dutch oven is best for this, second is a pizza stone (or two-one for the bread and one for the rack above), if you have neither use a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Whatever you are using, preheat it with the oven.
When the oven is hot, take out your dutch oven, plop the dough into it (by turning the bowl upside-down), put the lid on, and put it back in the oven. If you are using a dutch oven, keep it covered for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 15-25 minutes; until absolutely beautiful.
Time required: total of 3 minutes of active effort over 45-50 minutes.
Finally, let cool completely; if you can. With your first loaves you will probably be too excited to wait. That first bite of warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven bread is fantastic. But beware, the remaining loaf will be much dryer as a result. In time, you will learn to wait.
Ok, stop reading! Go make this now!