I absolutely love to make my own bread. I also love having fresh, delicious, fragrant bread straight from my oven, but I actually love the process of making bread itself. The end product is just like a bonus. However, bread is something that tends to intimidate people. They think it's super hard and scary and temperamental and you have to knead this thing for half an hour and have a baking stone and a bread maker and all this crap. But by now, I'm sure a lot of you have at least heard of the no-knead breads. It's not some fad or some lame "hack" or whatever, it's just a different way of making bread, one that is ideal for the home baker because it's dead easy.
In case some of you are still kinda of on the fence about making homemade bread, I re-made this recipe (originally posted about 2 years ago) from one of the best no-knead bread books around, Flour Water Salt Yeast, which I highly recommend to anyone and everyone. I include some gif's to help you guys understand some of the motions and get an idea of what the bread should look like at different stages.
Just a note - this bread is not sourdough. I personally don't love the flavour of a strong sourdough and I don't always make bread every weekend, so keeping a starter going is kind of a pain for me. With that said, I think I will start up a starter again soon just to play around with making a less-sour sourdough.
This stage of mixing just the flour and water is called the "autolyse". This is like a kick-starter for the enzymes in the flour to get to work before the yeast and salt are added. It's not 100% necessary, but it helps! There's also the "pincer method", which is a way to incorporate ingredients without kneading the dough. I tend to use all fingers when doing it, while the recipe says to use your thumb and forefinger. It depends on your hand strength, I guess.
After the autolyse, the salt and the yeast are added. The dough is folded over itself, then more pincer method to distribute and incorporate the salt and yeast. The photo above is what the dough looks like right after the incorporation of the ingredients - pretty rough and ropey, not much gluten development. But after a few more folds over the next hour and a half, the dough totally transforms.
And that is the dough after the third and final fold! It's crazy that a simple action of folding the dough over itself, plus a bit of time, can change the dough so much. As you can see, it's much smoother and stretchier and there's much more gluten development - no kneading needed (ha)!
Folding and shaping the dough is a little trickier, but it's easy once you get it. You fold the dough, just like in the fermentation stage, then use the work surface (preferably wood but almost any surface will work) to create a tight ball of dough. Scoring is the most fun for me, especially now that I have a lamé (literally a razor blade on a stick). It's so cool to see how the cuts open in the oven and how it shapes the finished bread. Make your cuts quickly and confidently - it's usually a one-shot deal. A basic X with a few little extra cuts is fine and once you get used to the bread and scoring, you can try different cuts. Here's a few examples!
Square cut with an X
Play around with your scoring and have fun with it! It's always fun to try new designs and see what they turn out like.
Dealing with the hot dutch oven can be a bit scary, but just be careful and it'll be fine. Make sure you bake the bread until fairly dark - this isn't some pale crappy Wonderbread loaf! You want a very dark brown colour, which will give a wonderfully delicious and crispy crust. If you underbake it, you'll be losing out on all the flavour and crusty goodness. It's best to let the bread cool on a wire rack completely before you cut it, but I know for a fact that it is near impossible to resist a slice of warm bread...
I hope this has helped anyone who feels intimidated or scared by making bread! Once you make your first loaf of homemade bread, you won't go back to buying bread anymore, I promise. Think of this bread as your gateway recipe into the wonderful world of breads - you might get into using starters, or different grains, or porridge, or baguettes, or maybe you'll even buy a couche!
Good luck and have fun!!
Overnight White Bread
Recipe from Flour Water Salt Yeast
950 g all-purpose flour
50 g whole wheat flour
780 g water, 90 to 95 F/ 32 to 35 C
22 g fine sea salt
0.8 g instant dried yeast
Combine the 1,000 g of flour with 780 g of water in a 12 quart (or equivalent) tub. Mix by hand until just incorporated. Cover and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Use the pincer method to fully integrate the ingredients. Using a pincerlike grip with your thumb and forefinger, squeeze big chunks of dough and then tighten your grip to cut through the dough. Do this repeatedly, working through the entire mass of dough. With your other hand, turn the tub while you’re mixing to give your hand a good angle of attack. Cut through the dough five or six times wit the pincer method, then fold it over itself a few times, then once again cut through it five or six times and fold it over itself a few more times. Repeat this process, alternating between cutting and folding, until you feel and see that all the ingredients are fully integrated and the dough has some tension in it.
Sprinkle the 22 g of salt and the 0.8 g of yeast evenly over the top of the dough. Mix by hand, wetting your working hand before mixing so the dough doesn't stick to you. Reach underneath the dough and grab about one-quarter of it. Gently stretch this section of dough and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. Repeat three more time with the remaining dough, until the salt and yeast are fully enclosed.
Use the pincer method to fully integrate the ingredients again. Repeat this process, alternating between cutting and folding, until you feel and see that all the ingredients are fully integrated and the dough has some tension in it. Let the dough rest for a few minutes, then fold for another 30 seconds or until the dough tightens up. The target dough temperature at the end of the mix is 77 to 78 F/ 25 to 26 C. Cover the tub and let the dough rise for 12 to 14 hours.
The dough needs two or three folds, preferably within the first hour and a half after mixing. This is best for maximum gas retention and volume in the finished loaf. To fold the dough, use the same process as you did when folding in the ingredients.
In the morning, moderately flour a work surface about 2 feet wide. Flour your hands and sprinkle a bit of flour around the edges of the tub. Tip the tub slightly and gently work your floured hand beneath the dough to loosen it form the bottom of the tub. Gently ease the dough out onto the work surface without pulling or tearing it.
With floured hands, pick up the dough and ease it back down onto the work surface in a somewhat even shape. Dust the area in the middle where you'll cut the dough with a bit of flour. Cut the dough into 2 equal size pieces.
Dust two proofing baskets (or equivalent) with flour.
Using the same technique as in the folding step, stretch and fold one-quarter of the dough at a time up and over the top to form a round, gently pulling each segment until you get to its maximum stretch, then folding it over the top to the opposite side. Repeat, working your way around the dough and forming it into a ball, until the interior is fully enclosed and you have a round with a little tension to it. Then flip it over so the seam is on the work surface in an area cleared of flour - at this point you want the friction, or grip, of a clean surface.
Cup your hands around the back of the dough ball as you face it. Pull the entire dough ball 6 or 8 inches toward you on the dry, unfloured surface, leading with your pinky fingers and applying enough pressure so the dough ball grips your work surface and doesn’t just slide across it. As you pull, this will tighten up the ball and add tension to it. Give the loaf a quarter turn and repeat this tightening step. Proceed in this way until you’ve gone all the way around the dough ball two or three times. Place each seam side down in its proofing basket. Lightly flour the tops of the loaves, set them side by side, and cover them with a kitchen towel.
Let them proof for about 1 1/4 hours, assuming your kitchen temperature is around 70 F/21 C. If your kitchen is warmer, the loaves will proof faster. Preheat the oven at this time, 475 F. Place your Dutch Oven on the middle rack with the lid on while the oven is preheating.
If you only have one Dutch oven, put the second loaf in the fridge 20 minutes before you bake the first one.
Be very careful with the extremely hot dutch oven in this next step. Invert the proofed loaf onto a lightly floured countertop, keeping in mind that the top of the loaf will be the side that was facing down while it was rising - the seam side. Remove the preheated Dutch oven from the oven, remove the lid, and carefully place the loaf in the Dutch oven seam side up. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to bake for a further 20 to 30 minutes, until at least medium dark brown around all the loaf. Check after 15 minutes of baking uncovered in case your oven runs hot.
Remove the Dutch oven and carefully tilt it to turn the loaf out. Place on a wire rack to let it cool, about 20 minutes. Put the Dutch oven back in the oven for 5 minutes to preheat it, then bake the second loaf in the same way.