Sunday, June 5, 2011

Crusty Artisan Bread From Scratch - Embarrassingly Simple

I love recipes that give a huge wow factor. Recipes that are so awesome, that people would swear on their lives that you spent years as a baker's apprentice. Today, I found another one of those recipes and cranked out some old world artisan bread that would put Whole Foods to shame.

Here's how it went down.

Last night I was feeling a little low, and needed something constructive to do. I had accidentally left our bread machine at my mother's over Memorial Day weekend, and there has been no bread in the house ever since. Yea, I know, the horror. Shhhh it will all be okay. I had stumbled across a recipe for a no-knead bread several months ago, but those are always too good to be true.You usually end up with some kind of flat brick, or chewy grossness. So last night, I decided I would risk it and try the "No Knead Artisan Bread".

Here's what you need:
  • 1/4 tsp active dry yeast 
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water 
  • 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat, or a combination. 
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt 
  • A 6 or 8 QT Dutch Oven type pot (cast iron), ceramic, or a oven safe Pyrex dish with a lid.
  • A non-terry cloth towel (flour sack towel) Where the heck you gonna find one of these?  Amazon, Wal-mart, some old lady's kitchen. Mine came from Target, 4 for like a $1.50. (you could probably get away without using the towel, but I didn't risk it since I had one.)
Okay, first things first. This recipe is one of those great start and leave it types. (Like a pot roast or crock pot meal). Come to think of it, it would also go great with either one of those meals, but I digress. This is not the bread you make when you want it with dinner in thirty minutes because your husband's boss is on his way over for dinner and you want to impress him because they are laying people off and you just can't go back to working that street corner...and oh GOD!!!! 

*ahem, clear throat*....sorry about that. *straightening my apron*

So, just keep that in mind, plan appropriately. Start this bread at night before, go to bed, and cook it with dinner the next day. 

Now don't flake out on me. I know you're thinking, "Oh God, I don't have time for that!" Yes you do, get your panties out of the wad and get back over here. I'm going to make it all okay. Chill out diva. You act like I let you down before.

...Okay, contain the snarky comments we are getting started...

Get your warm water and yeast in a large bowl, and mix it until it dissolves (your water will look cloudy brown). When I say warm, I don't mean scalding. Warm like milk for baby warm. Yeast is a living thing and if you plop down in scalding water, it will curse your name as it dies a painful, miserable death.  

Afterward, toss in your salt and flour. You hopefully have a stand mixer stirring this up, if not, get your husband or eldest son to strong arm it into a sticky, thoroughly congealed mess. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Keep in a warm place and let it sit anywhere from 8 to 18 hours. Mine rested in the kitchen from like 4pm to about noon the next day. You can go out and drink the night away and not even worry about the bread until you have slept off your hangover.

When you drag home from partying all night, and your ready to move on, take a look down at your bowl of bread goo. It should look something like this. 
No, this is not vom
Check out all the bubbles on the surface, that is how you know it is ready to go.

The next thing you are going to do is sprinkle a few tablespoons of flour onto a work surface. You are now going to turn the bread out. Now keep calm Myrtle. I know what you are thinking. We are not going to knead here. All you are going to do is turn the goo out of the bowl onto your floured surface, sprinkle some flour on top of that, and turn it over once or twice on itself. Now you are going to loosely cover the blob with some plastic wrap and take a 15 minute break. You deserve it champ. (The dough needs to rest from all your man handling). Check it out.
 Turn out dough

Okay, now that you are rested up from all that hard work, take off the plastic wrap and form the dough into a ball like a boss. Flour your hands if necessary to prevent it from sticking. 
 Form into a ball like a boss.
Now you are going to flour up your flour sack towel really well. Then gently place the dough ball on the towel.
Plop, but gently.

Whew, all this work, I'm going to need a drink and a nap. Loosely cover the ball with the edges of the towel and let it rise for the next 1 1/2 hours. It should double in size, that is why you don't want to wrap it up tight. Have yourself a celebratory Appletini, the hard work is over.
When the 1 1/2 hours have passed, drag your butt back to the kitchen, place the dutch oven and its lid in the oven, and crank up the stove to 450*. Don't even look at the bread. Set a timer for 30 minutes and go have another Appletini. 
After the thirty minutes have passed, it's time to get your bake on. Go gently unwrap the bread and stick two fingers in the middle. If the dough does not spring back readily, it has doubled.
"I'm Doubled! Quit Poking Me!
The next step is a little trick so pay attention, Myrtle. Take the dutch oven out of the oven, place it on top of the stove, and take the lid off. Then, you're going to slide your hands under the bread towel, and take it over to the dutch oven.

Scooping and taking

Then, flop the dough into the pot. Shake the pot 2 or 3 times to get it evenly distributed.

Flopped it in there anyway.
Now, put the lid on it and stick it back in the oven for 30 minutes. After those thirty minutes have passed, reach in and take the lid off. Cook it for another 15-30 minutes, depending on how dark you want the crust. When it's done, pull it out and dump it on a rack to cool. This is what you get.


I'm Betty Freakin' Crocker!
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  1. Cleaned up a bit per Anonymous Commentor's request.

  2. Great post!!! Very funny and instructive. Thank goodness I don't have 1) a stand mixer or 2) a strong man to knead my dough for me and will have to rely upon the KINDNESS of WONDERFUL chef-type friends to share their spoils with me. :-)

    It was DELICIOUS!!!! More! More! More!

  3. Keep it clean, Potty Mouth!! ;)


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