I’d never made no knead bread until this loaf. I’d heard of it, and even looked at recipes, yet somehow those things never turned into actually doing it. Why is this? I have no idea. The most likely explanation is that I see so many recipes every day that I want to try, it’s hard to keep up with them all. Pinterest is going to be a good tool for getting on top of this, especially when it comes to bread recipes. I’ve also been a bit intimidated by bread up until recently, so maybe there was a Fear of Failure lurking in the back of my mind – to fail at a recipe that is supposed to be so easy would be worse than failing at a recipe that’s hard, right? Or maybe I’m a (very) secret bread snob and I didn’t think it was bread if you just mixed it in a bowl and let nature do the work. That last opinion would have to have been extremely secret, even from myself, but I’m just throwing it out there for the sake of argument. Whatever the reason that I hadn’t made it before, I’ve done it now, and I can tell you that it really is a big reward for a small effort.
The recipe I used was from Jaden’s lovely blog, Steamy Kitchen. This is a classic example of why ‘read through before starting’ is an important rule – I started the bread on a grumpy Saturday afternoon, and when I got to the instruction that said ‘Now leave your bread to rest overnight’ I was quite taken aback. I had been deprived of my mood lifting bread making (and eating)! And it was all my own fault! How I hate being wrong… I did the only reasonable thing and started making sourdough cinnamon rolls, too. They turned out like this:
It was that kind of afternoon.
They turned out like that because when I thought I was leaving them in a very low oven to heat, I was just leaving them in a cold oven with the fan on to dry out and ooze sugar everywhere. I turned the oven up to bake them in the vain hope that something salvageable may come of them, but it didn’t. At all. Still, it gave me a laugh, and cheered me up without having to consume any calories, so I suppose it was a win overall.
I went back to the no knead bread after 20 hours, and it looked like this:
After baking so much bread recently I’ve come to really appreciate the look of bubbly, yeasty dough like this; I could see that it might be a pain to work with, but I could also see that it was behaving exactly as it was supposed to, and that it would rise up into a lovely, airy loaf. Look at all the bubbles!
It was sticky to work with – I made sure my work surface was well floured, and a good tip that I had forgotten in the excitement of the moment is to use wet hands when handling a sticky dough like this. Wetting your hands balances out the extra flour that you’re adding from the surface, but still stops you wearing bread dough gloves by the time you’re finished. There were really only two tricky moments with the dough; the first was in transferring it from the surface to the HEAVILY floured tea towel. You can see that the dough took on a curve, where I tried to extract my hands without ruining the shape entirely…
One I’d managed to get most of the dough into the dish, I put it back in the oven, covered. This was the result at 30 minutes:
You can see that the bread doesn’t really rise while it’s in the oven, I think because it goes in at a very high temperature. It pulls away nicely from the sides of the dish – this dish wasn’t greased or floured, just brought to the temperature of the oven before I put the dough in. You can hear the dough sizzle when you tip it out of the towel and it hits the hot ceramic. You can also use a cast iron or enamel pot – Jaden has a nice paragraph on choosing just the right receptacle in her post.
Here’s the final result, after another 15 minutes of uncovered baking:
There’s a close up of one of the gnarly bits. I took the loaf out of the baking dish (my special favourite Le Creuset dish!) and let it cool on a rack until it was cool enough to slice into. It sang as it cooled down. I’ve never been so delighted by the sound of bread. It crackled, and whistled a little bit, and gave these little pops now and again, and the whole time it gave off the most amazing smell, the warm, homely, sweet, savoury, begging for butter smell of fresh bread.
And yes, all right, maybe none of that *actually* sounds like singing, but in that moment it was like listening to a choir of angels. Bready angels.