Wednesday, 13 March 2013

No Knead Bread

 With four people in our family, we can go through a lot of bread. Between toast in the morning and sandwiches for school, I can buy up to 3 loaves a week, which is what I was doing for many years.  The trouble was, since we moved to Vancouver Island, I couldn't find bread I really liked. I missed my French sourdough that I used to buy at Granville Island and haven't been able to find a good replacement here.  We are very fortunate to have a wonderful organic bakery here in the valley, but at $4.50 a loaf, you can imagine how that adds up in a year, almost $700.00.  That is just for bread, never mind all the other food I buy.  As a one income family, that was getting to be a bit much for our modest budget.  So as a cost saving measure,  I thought it was time to make my own bread.

The reality is that my mother really is the bread baker in our family.  When I was young, she renovated our basement and opened her own wholesale bakery.  She ground her own flour, used the best ingredients and produced some of the best bread I have ever eaten.   I remember waking up in the mornings to the smell of fresh bread in the house and then going to the grocery and health food stores with her as she did her morning deliveries. It wasn't uncommon for there to be people waiting with money in hand for her to arrive with her fresh bread.  With a talent like that, surely I should be able to make my own bread. Sadly no. I tried many times and failed. I could never make bread like her, no matter how hard I applied myself.  I felt like the daughter of a famous musician who couldn't carry a tune herself.

Then one day I stumbled upon this.  Now, I know this is old news for anyone who has been in the food world for a while, but it was new to me and perhaps it will be new to you as well.  This new way of baking has literally changed my life.  Not only can I make the best bread since my mother's, it is so easy my 5 year old can do it.  It is cheap to make and so, so good to eat.  Going from spending almost $700.00 a year to under $200.00 has been a revelation and it is better than store bought!  The only investment you need to make is a dutch oven, but there are loads of options out there including this inexpensive one.  Once you have that, you can not only bake this beautiful bread, you can braise meat, make soups and stews, even roast a chicken.  Purchasing this pot will give you more service than a bread machine and you will have it for life.  And I guarantee you, once you make this bread for yourself, you will wonder why you ever bought that sawdust at the grocery store.  You will also look like a freakin' hero to your family and feel pretty super yourself.

No Knead Artisan Bread 
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

3 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt (if you are using Maldon, reduce to 1 1/4 if you are using free flowing)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water 
squeeze of fresh lemon *

In a large bowl, stir together flour, yeast and salt.  Add the warm water and lemon and stir.  It will be sticky and stringy.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 18 hours at room temperature.

After the 18 hours, it will have doubled and look like it has bubbles in it.  Pour it out of the bowl with your fingers  (it will be stringy and sticky, you want this) onto a floured surface.  Then turn it in on itself a couple of times.  To do this, take one end and bring it to the middle.  Take the opposite end and do the same.  That's it, no kneading! Once you have done this, loosely cover it with a well floured tea towel, seam side DOWN.

Let it rest for 2 hours.

At the 1 1/2 hour mark, put your dutch oven in a 500℉ degree oven and let it heat up for 1/2 hour.  At the 2 hour mark, take your dutch oven out, put your dough in, seam side UP, cover and put back in the oven for 30 minutes.

When the timer goes, take the dutch oven out, uncover and put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

When your bread is done it will be a beautiful artisan loaf of loveliness.  Eat and enjoy the best bread of your life with loads of butter or good olive oil.  You see?  I do have the bread baking gene, I just needed the right recipe!  My mother is so proud.

*The lemon juice feeds the yeast and helps to produce a larger loaf with better crumb. 

**You can vary this recipe to your taste.  Sometimes I use all white flour, sometimes all whole wheat or even a combination of the two.  If you want some seeds in it, throw in a handful of sunflower or flax seeds.  You can make this your very own.  

***I have tried many different brands of flour including Robin Hood, Rodgers and Anita's Organic. They are all OK, although Robin Hood has additives in it which I'm not crazy about. However, if you live in the Cowichan Valley, I have found that the unbleached white flour from True Grain Bakery to give me  the very best results.  It is the same flour they use to make their baguettes!  It also blends well with Rogers whole wheat.

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