I know I’m not alone in my love of fresh starts. A new notebook with clean, crisp pages. A new haircut (with bangs, in my case). A new daily planner. A new year.
By now, there’s been a few firsts of 2013. A first kiss. A first workout. My first breakfast of this year happened either very early Tuesday or very late Monday. It was about 3:30 a.m. and we’d just returned home from a party. I wrapped myself under a blanket and took Danny up on his offer to make Kay and I omelets and bacon. He even did the dishes and brewed coffee. The breakfast was glorious, greasy, and just the thing for a late night that would keep going until 5ish when I dropped off my best friend at the airport. As far as starts to a new year, it was a pretty good one.
On the tail end of 2012, with a certain bread book in hand, we said we would bake our own bread every week. We’d start our weeks with a fresh loaf and a few mornings with our toast shining with jam and butter. But you all know how that turned out. Our bread dreams were
Finally, I convinced Danny we should take a step back and try Jim Lahey’s famous no-knead bread. You know, that bread I’m sure every other food blogger has tried. We found a recipe The New York Times posted in 2006 (back when I was a college freshman learning how to play beer pong and feed myself from a dorm fridge. I wasn’t ready for the bread then).
We mixed. We waited. We crossed our fingers.
And you know what? This bread turned out fantastic on the first try. We’ve made it a few times since then, and it’s been just as good every time. The dough is always bubbly and alive with yeast as it should be. The resulting loaf of bread is light with a beautiful golden brown crust. And now we can truly resolve to make our own bread regularly.
We usually mix the flour, water, yeast, and salt around 3 p.m. and let it rest until the next morning around 9. The bread is pulled hot from the oven shortly after noon, and by happy hour you can definitely make some bruschette.
We’d previously done a version of Mark Bittman’s speedy no-knead bread for Danny’s idea of a celery bread, but it was something we only did once and honestly it didn’t rise enough. I enjoyed the celery soup more than the bread.
The only thing left to figure out with Lahey’s bread is to practice our hand at shaping it into a rounder loaf. Oh, and I’d like to try folding in some olives or rosemary. If you’ve never made your own bread before, I highly recommend taking this recipe and checking off another first this week. You won’t be disappointed.
jim lahey’s no-knead bread
This is the kind of bread recipe you’ll get right on the first try. The recipe is simple, and the resulting loaf is light and delicious. The trickiest part is timing it right as the dough needs to rest for several hours. I tend to mix the dough around 3 p.m. so I can bake it the next day and enjoy fresh bread by the early afternoon. A slice of this bread makes fantastic toast, and keeps for a few days as soft as the first day.
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups water
cornmeal or wheat bran as necessary
Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add water and stir until blended. The dough will quickly become shaggy and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for at least 12 hours (though 18 is best) at warm room temperature.
After the dough’s resting period, the surface should be bubbly. Lightly flour a counter top or cutting board and dump your dough onto it. Sprinkle the dough with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest another 15 minutes.
The dough will be sticky here, but try to use just enough flour to keep it from sticking to your cutting board or fingers as you gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal, and place the dough seam side down on the towel. Dust with more flour and cover with another clean cotton towel. Let the dough rise for two hours. The dough is ready when it more than doubles in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
Heat your oven to 450°F at least a half hour before the dough should be ready. Place a Dutch oven or other 6- to 8- quart heavy covered pot in the oven as it heats up. When the dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven. Carefully slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. Don’t worry if it looks less than perfect because Lahey says messy is okay here. Shake the pot a couple times if the dough is unevenly distributed and know that it’ll straighten out as it bakes. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake until the loaf is a bunch of lovely shades of golden and brown, another 15 to 30 minutes.
Move loaf to a cooling rack and let it cool for up to an hour or so. Slice into the loaf and enjoy, keeping any leftovers stored for a few days in the Dutch oven or an airtight container.
Makes one 1 1/2-pound loaf. Recipe from Jim Lahey via Mark Bittman and The New York Times.