I recently re-discovered in my recipe stash Mark Bittman's directions for no-knead bread, which apparently was quite the talk of the (foodie end of the) internet for a while. So a couple of years after printing off the directions I managed to get around to making it. Basically, 3 cups of flour, a tiny amount of yeast (1/4 teaspoon), water, and salt and let the mixture sit for a day, turn it out, shape minimally, let rise again, then dump in a smoking hot (450 F) preheated covered pot, bake for thirty minutes, remove cover, and finish baking.
So, notes- the dough is wet, really, really wet. I first made this on a moderately humid (+/- 20%) Southwestern winter day and it was still wet. The whole bit of forming the loaf didn't go nearly as smoothly (no pun intended) as I would have liked. Also, given that the interior of my house won't reach 70 F., the temperature recommended for the first rise, for a couple of months, I let the dough go twenty-four hours before handling. That was about the right time period, as witnessed by the texture of the dough and wealth of bubbles on its surface as I turned it out after the initial rise.
My 10 inch camp oven is a little big and so the loaf came out a bit flat. Upon tasting, I found the bread a bit bland (and I don't usually salt heavily). Increasing the salt to 2 1/2 teaspoons from the recommended 1/2 teaspoon didn't hurt subsequent loaves rising and improved the flavor considerably.
The wheat germ I used to keep the dough from sticking to the towel also ended up in the loaf, as the dough folded over on itself as I put it in the really hot dutch oven. It was a bit unsightly running through the bread, so use flour if you want the interior to look a bit better.
Later, I tried making a loaf using a recipe and a half of dough. This resulted in a taller loaf, but the center didn't get quite as done as I would have preferred. That loaf could have gone a bit longer in the oven without over browning, though.
As a technique for baking, a covered pot really makes a difference. I took another favorite bread recipe for the bread machine and, after the machine had worked the dough through the first rise, conducted the second rise in a bowl and then dumped it into the preheated Dutch oven. Here's the loaf-
The dough not being as moist as the no-knead bread recipe, the crust wasn't as crisp, but it was much better than what the bread machine or my oven usually turns out. Of course, a covered baking dish for bread is nothing new, witness cloches. I'm sure they work well, but my camp oven is a lot more versatile and I've made loaves now in corning ware and other vessels. Covered and preheated seem to be the keys.
In the end, this is really good bread and well worth essaying on your part. I can't imagine a more accessible recipe (especially for folks unused to baking) that provides such a nice result for so little effort.
A last note, Jim Lahey, the baker who did a demo for the New York Times and provided them with a recipe has also adapted the recipe for pizza dough.
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