No-Knead Rustic Bread

No-Knead Rustic BreadStill We Rise
I struggled with bread making for years. It was only in the last few that I figured it all out. Since then I have mastered a couple of recipes, Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread and Hearty White Sandwich Bread. And, have experimented with others with a decent amount of success. Lately, since I seem to have a little more time on the weekends, I have branched out to make some of the harder stuff. And, by harder I mean those beautiful crusty loaves that you would normally purchase from people who know what they are doing.

The most difficult thing about baking bread right now is finding the flour and even the yeast. I was fortunate to be able to order a 10# bag from the King Arthur website but I had to keep checking to see if they had stock before I got lucky. I will say that we have been able to get some flour in here at the store, though it’s been spotty. (But, it’s getting a little better.) Yeast is a different issue. The good news is thousands of years of bread making on this planet have taught us that you don’t need foil packets of yeast to make bread. It’s in the wild, man…

There have been a number of recipes popping up that require using “wild yeast” which for all intents and purposes means making a “starter”. The most obvious example is a sourdough starter. I have mostly tried to avoid making sourdough during my bread making journey because of the requirement of using a starter. Starters can be labor-intensive. They require daily feeding to keep them active. It can take over your life and become a real chore if you have an active calendar. As my calendar has become less active in recent weeks, I was working up the courage to start the process but I was saved by a friend of mine who not only dropped of a tasty loaf of her rosemary sourdough but some of her starter as well. This is a common practice amongst sourdough bakers. You gotta do something with the “discard” so why not dispense it to your friends? You can only make sourdough waffles so many times…

Because I am unable to share my starter with all of you I am sharing a few recipes for your viewing pleasure. The first is a fairly basic recipe for a rustic sourdough. Please note it does use packaged yeast as well as starter. And here are instructions for how to get your started going. If you are unable to get yeast, I encourage you to do a little research about natural yeast. (The King Arthur Learn section of their website is great.) Yeast from dried fruit is a very old but effective method of baking bread and might be a good option. ( It’s also a great science lesson for your kids.)

The recipe below is a fantastic peasant bread for those who want crusty loaf but aren’t big into sourdough. I made this one last weekend and it was so tasty. Also, remember that these recipes and ideas require time. Good news is, right now, we have that time…

No-Knead Rustic Bread
Adapted from the Food Network
Yields 8 servings

2-1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
All-purpose flour, for dusting

Special equipment
2 or 4-quart cast-iron or enameled Dutch oven

Make the dough
Combine the two types of flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water (about 100º F) and mix the dough with your hands until it comes together—it will still be wet and sticky). Leave the dough in the bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. If you have extra time, refrigerate it for 12 to 24 hours. This step is not necessary but will improve the flavor of the bread.

Let the dough rise
Allow the dough to rise, covered, at room temperature for about 18 hours; this rise is necessary whether you refrigerate the dough first or not. The surface will be bubbly after rising.

Form the loaf
Generously dust a work surface with all-purpose flour. Turn the dough out onto the flour, and sprinkle some flour on top. Fold the top and bottom of the dough into the center, then fold in the sides to make a free-form square. Use a dough scraper or a spatula to turn the dough over, then tuck the corners under to form a ball.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and generously dust it with flour. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet, seam-side down, and sprinkle with more flour.

Second rising
Cover with a cotton kitchen towel (not terry cloth!) and allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 2 to 3 hours).

Bake the bread
Position a rack in the bottom of the oven and place a 2 or 4-quart cast-iron or enameled Dutch oven (without the lid) on the rack. Preheat the oven to 450º F for at least 30 minutes.

When the dough has doubled, carefully transfer the hot pot to a heatproof surface. Uncover the dough, lift up the parchment and quickly invert the dough into the pot (shake the pot to center the dough, if necessary).

Cover the pot with its lid and bake 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until brown and crusty (about 15 to 30 minutes more).

Turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool.

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