I have easily made over 500 loaves of bread, and this one has magical powers! Truly! As soon as my son cut into the just cooled loaf, I knew it was going to be amazing; but one look at those marvelous holes*, I was transported! Back to Italy, when long, lazy lunches on the terrazzo would give way to dusk and dinner-time; we were so pleasantly stuffed from an incredible noon feast, we couldn’t possibly eat another bite… yet, the bread, olive oil, and finely grated cheese, bowls of ruby red, sun-warmed tomatoes, lightly drizzled with more olive oil and salt, were placed in front of us, and we were suddenly famished. Dipping that bread into the olive oil, soaking up bits from the ruby fruit ~ see? Were you right there with me? Could you almost taste it? THAT, my friends, is the power this bread has!
Whether you’re a novice baker, or like my friends Mel & Nicky, who have created some amazing ciabatta and sourdough, I hope you’ll try this recipe… Come on this culinary journey with me! Enjoy ~ V
Rustic No-Knead Bread
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 1 5/8 cup water
- cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and yeast;
pour in water and stir until no flour remains. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside for at least 8 hours and up to 7 days! (I am in the process of using my food-grade plastic bin and 5 pounds of flour to have and share fresh crusty bread!) The first time I made this, I waited only 8 hours, and for the second rise, I laid it out on a parchment-lined and floured baking sheet (Italian-style); this time, I will complete the second rise in a proofing basket. If you do not have a proofing basket, you can use any tall, narrow bowl; this encourages the dough to rise taller (French-style) (see difference in techniques at bottom).
Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat piece of parchment with wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on parchment and dust with more bran or cornmeal. Cover with cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot in oven as it heats.(I used an old cast-iron roaster) When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under parchment and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned, not golden. Cool on a rack. If you like, you can choose to split your dough in half, allowing the other half to continue the rest process… this way you can have fresh bread tomorrow, too!
dough will be sticky; trust me, you want this!
*According to French law, true French bread may contain only the basic four ingredients and sometimes small amounts of rye flour or ascorbic acid. Contemporary French artisan bakers create many variations on the basic-four theme by using artful shapes, color, hue, crumb density, texture, and varying degrees of sourness.
Italian bakers also adhere to the basic-four rule but work with a stickier dough that contains more water. Due to the flour-to-water ratio, Italian bread is much flatter than the French version and has a moister texture and a crumb with large, irregularly shaped holes. The crust is chewy yet soft, particularly when it is brushed with olive oil.