When my daughter was growing up, bread was something that was made from scratch maybe once or twice a year. When we moved to the country, I discovered that if you're at home working anyway, making bread isn't much harder than baking cookies. I spent a couple years baking bread here, ground from whole wheat berries in a manual grinder. I utterly loved it, the fresh flour tastes yummy in everything from pancakes to breads, but Steve did not. Since I rarely ate much wheat due to being diabetic and needing to limit carbohydrate, I eventually gave up on baking good bread on a regular basis since he wasn't enjoying it.
After my CABG, homemade bread was just unthinkable as there was no way this chest was going to knead without a Percocet or a half bottle of white wine! But then I ran across the idea of no-knead bread and decided to give it a try.
I have perfected a method that takes a total of about ten minutes to make and even an old, crippled lady can do it with just a bowl and spatula and almost no cleanup.
While this bread is very easy and requires little time, it does require some organization as the ten minutes of work is spread over a day. I usually mix the dough at dinner one evening to eat it for dinner the next night.
For us, homemade bread will never be a staple given our absolute disagreement on the topic of fresh ground wheat vs. white flour. But the thing about homemade bread is that nothing in the entire world smells that awesome when it's baking nor tastes so delectable when it's still warm and slathered in butter. So while it's not a regular item on our menu, I was pleased to find a way to do a small loaf now and again so easily.
During my bread-baking phase, the reason I ground my own wheat is that whole wheat flour, unless freshly ground, tends to be rancid. The oils in the germ are protected by the whole wheat berry, but once exposed to air, the oils begin to undergo oxidation. You would not believe the difference in taste when it's freshly ground; I've no desire to ever buy whole wheat flour again.
While most of my baking is done with almond flour and coconut flour, I do keep some wheat flour around. Because I don't buy much or use it often, I buy white to avoid the rancid oils. I do insist it be organic, unbleached and unbromated, but we do keep white flour in the house, mostly for pancakes, banana nut bread, pumpkin pecan bread and similar items for Steve.
So my post-surgery bread-baking experiments have all been with white flour. Given that the bran has been removed, there's little anti-nutrients remaining in the flour (almost no nutrients either), so soaking isn't strictly necessary for health reasons. But a long soak is the key to not having to knead this bread.
Besides being very easy to do, it also requires minimal ingredients: just flour, yeast, salt and water. We always have flour and salt, so yeast is the only specific ingredient for this recipe.
Because I bake bread so seldom, I keep my yeast in the freezer. I have tested it, and due to the long soak/ferment time, it makes absolutely no difference if you use it fresh or frozen, so I can decide to mix up dough spur-of-the-moment. I generally decide to mix a batch when I have the wrong amount of leftovers; too much for me to eat as lunch the next day, but not enough for both of us to have for supper. The bread fills the hole nicely.
Obviously, you can buy those little envelopes at the grocery store, but that's an expensive way to buy yeast. Those 3-packs cost close to $2 each.
I use the yeast to the right, which I bought on Amazon in bulk much more cheaply than the envelopes. Theoretically, it keeps frozen for up to a year; however, mine is a couple years old and still works great. As far as I can tell, I got a lifetime supply of yeast for around 3 bucks.
This recipe makes a crusty round loaf with big holes through it. I bake it in a well-seasoned covered cast-iron Dutch oven, though any covered casserole of appropriate size would do (though it might require buttering if it's not nonstick).
It'd be perfect dressed up a bit also, brushed with olive oil when removed from the oven and sprinkled with rosemary or flaky sea salt. But it's quite delicious just sliced and buried under a mound of pastured butter from your local farmer.
Jackie's no-knead bread
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 15-24 hours before eating: Mix ingredients in medium mixing bowl until dough just comes together into a shaggy mess. Cover and leave at room temperature.
- 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hours before eating: Stir with a wet spatula until deflated. Cover and leave at room temperature.
- 1 1/4 hours before eating: Place covered Dutch oven in oven and preheat to 450 F.
- 1 hour before eating: Remove Dutch oven from oven and take off lid. Dump contents of mixing bowl into it, shake to even out the dough if needed. Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.
- 30 minutes before eating: Remove cover from Dutch oven and continue baking another 15 minutes.
- 15 minutes before eating: Remove Dutch oven from oven, then remove loaf from Dutch oven. Knock on the bottom to see if it has a hollow sound, indicating it's done. Let cool for a while to facilitate easy slicing.
more details about my no-knead bread
|This is what a shaggy mess looks like; it takes less than a minute of stirring to achieve this. I usually cover it with a plate to let it incubate/ferment.|
|This is what it looks like after about 15 hours at room temperature. Though it's been bubbling along for this long, it doesn't have a sourdough taste yet.|
|This is about a minute after the previous picture; I've just stirred it with a wet spatula until it deflated. Taking these pictures took longer than the stirring did; it's that fast.|
|This is after the second rising. It is supposed to have about doubled in size, but is a bit flatter than usual here. But my Dutch oven was hot and hubby was on his way home, so I went ahead and baked anyways.|
|This is a couple minutes after the previous picture, having just dumped the dough into the preheated Dutch oven. Taking the cookware from the oven and removing the lid is the hardest bit of the entire process, but sitll only takes a minute.|
|This is the bread after being removed from the oven. If the bread is crustier than you'd like, just increase the first baking time by 5 minutes, thus only baking it uncovered for about 10 minutes.|
|A bit flatter than usual since I didn't let it rise as long as I might have during the second rising. But it got inhaled alongside our leftover chicken soup that night for dinner. Nom nom nom.|