Human Flower Project
A Gift Bouquet of Flour
Peace on earth, and good bread to all people.
Bill Bishop with his first loaf of No Knead Bread
Photo: Julie Ardery
Wish we could send all our beloved readers flowers this Christmas. Here’s the next best thing: a bread recipe that will restore your faith in human culture.
Mark Bittman of the New York Times broke the story last month, an ecstatic article that had us cranking up the oven to 450 degrees. Bittman passed along an amazing recipe for No Knead Bread from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. We haven’t bought a loaf of bread since. Actually, this is the most valuable thing we learned all year. Not saying much? Well, just try it before you say so.
Our first loaf didn’t rise too much but it was chewy and delicious, with shatteringly crunchy crust. There’s only one trick to the recipe: willingness to let things hang for a long, long time, since the dough needs just to sit there for about 18 hours on the first rise, three more for the second. In other words, this is the ideal undertaking for a couple of writers. It’s more fun than waiting to hear back from an editor and smells a whole lot better than watching paint dry.
So here you go. In lieu of flowers: flour. Happy holidays to all, and bon appetit. As we aspire to be in 2007, this recipe is very forgiving.
Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
(Human Flower Project recommends King Arthur bread flour)
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (we have upped to 2 tsp.)
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, (we’ve been going 18) at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. 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.
3. 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 a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for 2-3 hours (we’ve been going 3 hours). When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel 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. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.