By MH Staff - Posted on 20th February 2014
Forget flowers – bring her a loaf of homemade bread and she’ll be soft, supple dough in your hands. It worked for Jim Lahey, restaurant owner and the author of My Bread and most recently, My Pizza (R290 and R263 respectively, Loot). “I started making bread to impress my varsity sweetheart,” he says. It happens to be surprisingly easy – if you use Lahey’s no-knead method. Even better, Lahey promises, “You can knock this out of the park on the first try.” You’ll Need: A clean dish towel, 4 to 5-litre heavy ovenproof pot with lid, potholders, flat wire rack.
1 Mix the dough
In a medium bowl, stir together 3 cups of bread flour, 1¼ tsp of salt, and ¼ tsp of instant yeast. Add 1⅓ cups cool water and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds.
Change it up
• For wholewheat bread, reduce the bread flour to 2¼ cups and add ¾ cup of wholewheat flour; increase the yeast to ½ tsp.
• For rye bread, reduce the bread flour to 2¼ cups and add ¾ cup of rye flour; increase the yeast to ½ tsp.
• For olive bread, add 1½ cups roughly chopped pitted kalamata olives (drained) to the flour and omit the salt. Increase the yeast to ¾ tsp and the water to 1½ cups.
2 Start the slow rise
Cover the bowl and let the dough sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough has more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.
Start the rise at night and you can bake in the morning.
3 Shape and finish the dough
Scrape the dough, which will be loose and sticky, onto a floured work surface. Lightly flour your hands and then lift the edges of the dough toward the centre, nudging and tucking the edges to make it round. Place the dough, seam side down, on a clean, floured dish towel. If the dough feels tacky, dust it lightly with flour. Fold the towel loosely over it and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until it’s almost doubled and holds an impression when poked with a finger, 1 to 2 hours.
4 Preheat the pot
Half an hour before the end of the second rise, place a rack in the lower third of your
oven and preheat the oven to 250°C. Set a covered 4 to 5-litre heavy pot (such as Le Creuset) in the centre of the rack to heat up for 30 minutes.
5 Bake the bread
Using potholders, take the preheated pot out of the oven. Remove the lid. Unfold the towel, dust the dough lightly with flour, and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. Cover the pot and bake the bread for 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake until it turns deep chestnut but isn’t burnt, 15 to 30 minutes. Use potholders to carefully remove the bread from the pot; put it on a rack to cool thoroughly, at least 1 hour
An oven within the oven
Baking the bread in a covered pot traps the steam, forming a good crust and moist crumb, Lahey says.
6 Eat it
Toast slices and rub them with garlic for crostini, build a BLT (with homemade bacon ), or make panzanella: soak big cubes of bread in water for a minute, squeeze out the liquid, then toss with tomato chunks, shaved red onion, and torn basil. Drizzle in olive oil and red-wine vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and toss.