No-Knead Crusty White Bread

I have a love/hate relationship with homemade bread . There is nothing quite like homemade bread –  the smell as it bakes, the fresh taste of a just-baked loaf. But I hate, hate , hate kneading dough. I just really hate the mess that it makes in the kitchen (and on me), and I have no patience for the time that it takes. So when I saw this recipe for no-knead bread I knew that I had to try it. And I’m really glad that I did! It was so easy, and the results were fantastic! Everybody who tasted it raved about how good it was. I will definitely be making this often!
I did make a couple small changes: I did not have instant yeast, so I used an equal amount of active dry yeast that I dissolved in the water for 5 minutes before adding the flour and salt. Also, when I mixed everything together, the dough was a bit dry (I don’t know if it was because of the weather or because I used a different brand of flour) so I added an extra 1/4 cup or so of warm water to make a wet dough.
I let mine rise for 5 days.

No-Knead Crusty White Bread
The most basic of all no-knead loaves, this is a wonderful way to get into yeast-bread baking. The easy stir-together dough rests in your refrigerator, developing flavor all the time, till you’re ready to bake. About 90 minutes before you want to serve bread, grab a handful of dough, shape it, let it rise, then bake for 30 minutes. The result? Incredible, crusty artisan-style bread. If you’re a first-time bread baker, you’ll never believe this bread came out of your own oven. If you’re a seasoned yeastie, you’ll love this recipe’s simplicity.
Our thanks to Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, whose wonderful book, Artisan bread in Five Minutes a Day, is the inspiration for this recipe.
3 cups lukewarm water
2 pounds King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (6 1/2 – 7 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
* If you measure flour by sprinkling it into your measuring cup, then gently sweeping off the excess, use 7 1/2 cups. If you measure flour by dipping your cup into the canister, then sweeping off the excess, use 6 1/2 cups. Most accurate of all, and guaranteed to give you the best results, if you measure the flour by weight, use 32 ounces (2 pounds).
Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl or a large (6-quart) food-safe plastic container. For first-timers, “lukewarm” means about 105F, but don’t worry about getting the temperatures exact here. Comfortably warm is fine; “OUCH, that’s hot!” is not. Yeast is a living thing; treat it nicely.
Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with a beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a big spoon or dough whisk until everything is combined. Next, you’re going to let the dough rise. If you’ve made the dough in a plastic container, you’re all set – just let it stay there, covering the container with a lid or plastic wrap; a shower cap actually works well here. If you’ve made the dough in a bowl that’s not at least 6-quart capacity, transfer it to a large bowl; it’s going to rise a lot. There’s no need to grease the bowl, though you can if you like; it makes it a bit easier to get the dough out when it’s time to bake bread.
Cover the bowl or container, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or up to about 7 days. (If you’re pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it will get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it’ll rise, then fall. That’s okay; that’s what it’s supposed to do.

When  you’re ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough – a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It’ll be about the size of a softball or a large grapefruit.

Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball or a longer log. Don’t fuss around trying to make it perfect; just do the best you can.

Place the dough on a piece of parchment parchment paper (if you’re going to use a baking stone), or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the dough moist as it rests before baking.

Let the dough rise for about 45 to 60 minutes. It won’t appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it’ll seem to settle and expand. Preheat your oven (and baking stone, if you’re using one) to 450F while the dough rests. Place a shallow pan on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go.

When you’re ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2-inch deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that’s okay. It’ll pick right up in the hot oven.

Place the bread in the oven, and carefully pour the cup of hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It’ll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly.

Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown.

Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

3 to 4 loaves.


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