I have worked on making this no-knead bread both healthier and more tasty according to the family taste buds. With every loaf, I get closer and closer to perfection, but there always seems to be a bit of tweaking to explore. Until today. Today I baked up a new batch that I had made yesterday, and lordy, it was perfect. Tasty, complex, crunchy and chewy all at the same time.
One of the biggest complaints people have had with this ultra-popular recipe is that the original recipe in the NY Times was definately simple to make, but the bread was sort of tasteless. By reading a bunch of different foodie sites, I found many helpful hints on how to make the bread using the same basic recipe but making subtile changes that determined how flavorful the loaf would turn out. Some sites suggested using whole wheat flour, which I tried, but the loaf was more like a doorstop than bread. Others suggested adding certain things, from olives to herbs to fruits. I settled on herbs as one child will not touch anything with olives, and this was definately a savory loaf, not sweetbread.
My final tweak was to add 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour, 2.5 cups of unbleached white flour (both King Arthur), a full tablespoon of salt and one packet of yeast. The water ratio was upped a bit because of the whole wheat flour, but I ended up having too sticky a dough and added a tiny bit more unbleached white. To the dough I added two long branches worth of fresh rosemary that I did not cut up. I just used the whole leaves. I had tried cutting it before, but the high heat when baking tended to disintegrate the herb leaving no taste.
I let the dough rise for 20 hours, which I find is the timing that suits our house (cold at around 66 during the day, 60 at night) and my schedule. When I poured the risen dough out on the floured board, I had to add about 3 tablespoons more flour on top and on the bottom of the loaf to keep it from sticking. I then covered it with plastic wrap and a towel and let it rise for 2 more hours. It didn't quite double, but it was ready for baking.
When I put the dough in the preheated pot for baking, I added a generous sprinkle of fleur de sal all over the top, which added much to the flavor.
30 minutes in a covered dutch oven at 450 degrees F, then 25 more minutes uncovered at the same temp.
The finished loaf had a magnificent crusty crust with lots of crispy crunch when cut and bitten. Inside there were plenty of air pockets and the dough was very chewy and rich tasting. The rosemary added a hint of herby goodness, but didn't take away from the flavor of the bread. This was the most successful loaf by far, and the kids both asked that I don't change the recipe at all.
It goes well with good olive oil and unsalted butter. The oil is better healthwise, but nothing is a good substitute for butter on a warm loaf of bread.
I promise I will not post about this damn bread anymore. I had to get it perfect. I'm a tad bit OCD. No...could you tell?
Update: Dave of http://www.blogography.com has requested the recipe in full. So here it is, with my fabulous changes intact:
2.5 cups unbleached white glour
.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 TBS kosher salt
1 5/8 to 2 cups water, lukewarm
1 packet yeast or 1/4 tbs yeast. I used active dry.
2 long sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stem
fleur de sal (whole Sea Salt crystals)
In a large ceramic bowl, mix the flour, yeast and salt and whisk together.
Add water and stir until moistened. Dough will be very messy.
Cover dough with plastic wrap, and the with a towel.
Let dough rise for 18-24 hours. You can do it for as few hours as 12, but the longer it rises, the lighter the dough will be. Dough will be covered with bubbles when it's ready.
Sprinkle flour over a work surface. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface. Sprinkle a bit of flour over the top of the dough, and then flour your hands.
Fold the dough over into itself, cover with the plastic wrap, and leave for 15 minutes to rest.
Flour your hands again, and shape the dough very quickly into a ball mound. Work quickly and don't try for a perfect orb.
Throw some flour onto a work surface covered with a LINEN tea towel (you can use an apron, old table cloth, etc. but make sure the fabric is well floured or the dough will stick). Place the dough on the flour with the seam side down (the dough, not the fabric!). Sprinkle more flour over the dough mound and lightly place a second well floured tea towel on top.
Let the covered dough rise for 2 more hours or until doubled in volume.
1/2 hour before you are ready to bake, take a 5-8 quart sized HEAVY cast iron, Coated enamel iron, or very heavy metal dutch oven (I tried the Le Creuset pan but found the All Clad dutch oven easier to use and more successful in creating a gorgeous crust top and bottom) into a pre-heated 450 degree oven. Heat for full half hour.
When dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven. Carefully (it is HOT) flip the dough from the floured towel into the pot so that the seam side is now up. Shake the pot a little to distribute the dough that will even out during baking.
Sprinkle the top with the fleur de sal crystals.
Cover the pot, place in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the cover and bake for 15 to 30 more minutes until nicely browned.
Cool on a rack for at least a half hour and then eat!
Labels: Food, Recipes