I have always wanted to make my own bread. And last Christmas, a dear friend, who heard me lamenting about how I-just-can’t-make-good-bread-with-all-that-kneading-and-those-complicated-instructions, got me the best gift ever – the book My Bread by Jim Lahey, a kitchen scale and a Le Creuset pot.
It is the most spectacular gift – the subtitle of the book says why: it is the revolutionary, no work, no-knead method of making bread. I have now spent the better part of a year perfecting my system.
Buy the book for the interesting details – like Jim’s story, how he came up with the method, information about heat, yeast and salt, and why we are baking inside of a covered LeCreuset – or refer to the recipe in the New York Times.
But until you do something yourself, it is just words on a page. When I started, even though I was a little intimidated, I pressed on. Like a good little girl, I followed the instructions. Over time, I gained confidence, memorized the recipe, and got some new tools. I also learned some big lessons:
- A round loaf is called a boule.
- Laying fresh dough for the second rise on kitchen towels eventually ruins the towels and gets flour everywhere.
- Bannetons are the perfect vessel for the second proof. They are made of rattan and do not even have to be cleaned!
- Instead of buying individual packets of yeast, I keep a container in the freezer. It is both economical and convenient.
- I prefer a lot more yeast than the original recipe.
- Organic bread flour makes the best bread.
- Superfine brown rice flour dusted on the surface of the dough makes the crustiest crust.
- It is important to wait at least 8 hours to slice the bread. Believe me, hot bread right out of the oven is amazing but slicing it really does ruin it.
- An excellent bread knife (mine is a Wustof) is super important for smooth slices.
- And it is helpful to have a special bread cutting board (but not 100% necessary.)
- It is best to start the bread making process at night, do the second rise upon waking, and bake early.
- Since we go through a lot of bread, I bought another LeCreuset so I can make two at a time!
I took pictures of the entire process and while it seems like a lot, it really isn’t. Follow along and then go for it!
Recipe (for one boule)
400 – 415 grams organic bread flour
8 grams instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons, which is 1 packet)
8 grams salt
300 – 315 grams of cold filtered water
Ceramic bowl for the first rise
Banneton or towel (linen-free) for the second rise
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 qt. round Dutch oven
Weigh the flour. It doesn’t have to be exact, exact. Anything in the range is fine.
Add the yeast and then zero out the scale. Add the salt.
Mix the flour, yeast and salt with a fork, to combine. Place the bowl back on the scale and zero it out. Slowly pour the water straight in the bowl. (If I add 412 grams of flour, I try to add 312 grams of water.) It doesn’t have to be exact, but better less than more. You can always add a tablespoon at a time.
Mix with a spoonula or wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise overnight.
This is the dough in the morning, after the first rise.
Flour a banneton and your hand before pulling the dough out of the bowl.
These strands are the developed gluten.
Drop the dough into the banneton.
Cover with a kitchen towel for the second rise, 60 minutes. Set the timer and at the same time, start the preheat to 475, with the covered LeCreusets on the bottom rack. (That is my pizza stone at the floor of the oven.)
This is the dough after the second rise.
Use hot hands to take the LeCreusets out of the oven. Carefully drop the dough into the pot. (It doesn’t have to be centered.) Cover the pot and place back into the oven. Set the timer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, use hot hands to take the top off the pot. The bread is gorgeous, with a pale crust. Put back into the oven, uncovered. Set the timer for 15 more minutes.
After 15 minutes, use hot hands and carefully drop the breads down onto the cooling rack. (Usually they tumble out and then I organize them nicely on the rack.) These are the finished boules singing on the cooling rack. You can actually hear it crackling!
Wait at least 8 hours to slice the bread. We like to slice it the long way and then slice each side into thin pieces.
Store in BPA free plastic storage bags in the refrigerator and freezer. Enjoy!