Friday, November 13, 2009

The only bread recipe you'll ever need. Really.

This one right here.

This is the infamous "no-knead" bread recipe that has swept the foodie community ever since Mark Bittman published it in the Times in 2006. I've made it, it works, it's the only bread recipe I ever use.

Two notes: proportions aren't critical here. You can add more yeast and salt; in fact, I encourage this. (It tastes better.) Second, you can let the dough rise for as long as 24 hours without harm. Also, I usually end up using more water than the recipe calls for. Keep adding until all the flour is incorporated and you get the shaggy, sticky dough the recipe calls for.

Time is the key factor in this recipe. Yes, you'll need to mix the dough the day before and let it sit. But really, it takes three minutes to mix the dough. 24 hours will pass whether or not you want to make bread, and this recipe does all the work for you. No kneading, no KitchenAid bread hooks, a bare minimum of yeast, and it's virtually fool-proof.

I say "virtually" because once I forgot to put in salt and the bread tasted weird. So don't forget the salt.

Also, good equipment will make or break this bread. I already had a big cast-iron Dutch oven; if you have one, or similar (Le Creuset, a big ceramic pot), you're all set. If not, you won't get that great crispy shattering crust that is the envy of amateur cooks everywhere. Also, if you do, and you get that great crispy shattering crust, you'll then need a really good serrated bread knife in order to cut it properly. But don't let that stop you. Both these items are essential to a well-stocked kitchen anyway.

I use this crusty peasant loaf for everything. Sandwich bread. French toast. Regular toast. Croutons. I see similar round crusty artisanal loaves going for $3.99 or $4.99 apiece in fancy markets; considering the cost of bulk bread flour ($8.99 for 25 lbs), you can make this bread at home for...15 or 20 cents' worth of flour? Plus the cost of running the oven? You can't buy bread anywhere for anywhere near that price. And considering the amount of time and effort it takes to make this bread, I think it would take more time and effort to order sandwich bread online and have it delivered.

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