Basic No-Knead Bread
Makes 1 loaf
My grandmother had baking day once a week. She made a dough like this and let it rise overnight. The next day she baked enough for the whole week for the family and hired help.
I don’t have her recipe, though. Instead, this is an adaptation of Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread, taking only five hours from start to finish. This I can do! Five hours means I can start the bread before going to the farmers’ market or the grocery store, coming home and unloading the groceries, starting two soups, and eating lunch. By that time, I have two loaves of bread baked, a couple of soups ready to be refrigerated or frozen, and plenty of time for myself.
The lidded heavy pot creates an oven that gives a crisp dough. Although any covered heatproof pan can be used, I think Le Creuset enameled cast-iron pots are substantially better. I’ve used several sizes and shapes, all to good effect. For smaller sizes, I’ve halved the risen dough. — Nathalie Dupree
3 cups bread or all-purpose flour
1 package active dry or rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups room-temperature water
Oil as needed
Stir together flour, yeast and salt in bowl. Stir in water and make a rough dough. Do not knead. Move to an oiled plastic bag for about 4 to 8 hours in a warm room (70 degrees). If necessary, it may go into the refrigerator (in the bag) overnight or up to two days. Bring to room temperature before baking.
Lightly oil or flour a clean board or counter and slide the dough out on top of it. (Divide in half if making two loaves.) Gently fold the loaf roughly in half and repeat that motion. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit another 1/2 hour.
Immediately preheat the oven to 450 degrees. For one loaf, put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast-iron, enamel, oven-safe glass or ceramic) in the oven while it preheats. For 2 loaves, put 2 (3- to 4-quart) heavy covered pots (or covered paté or loaf pans) in the oven.
Moving quickly and carefully, remove the very hot pot(s) from the oven and close the door of the oven to keep it hot. Quickly and gently pick up the dough. Using a hot pad or oven mitts, remove the lid and set aside carefully, and set the dough or its half in the middle of the hot pot. Gently shake the pot to make the dough rest evenly in the pan if necessary. (It will readjust itself just a bit in the oven.) Cover with lid, return to the hot oven, and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid, and bake uncovered another 15 to 30 minutes until browned. Remove bread from the pan and cool on a rack.
Sprinkle with flour for a rough-baked finish. When cool, the bread will last up to 4 days, or may be frozen up to 3 months. Whether fresh or frozen, to re-crisp crust, reheat in a 400-degree oven 10 to 15 minutes. (It toasts beautifully.)
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 14 cookbooks, including the James Beard award-winning “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.