(Makes one 1 ½ lb [650 gr.] loaf)
The notion of baking bread without any kneading is not new, but the method received a lot of attention when it appeared in The New York Times on November 8, 2006. The formula given here is an adaptation of Jim Lahey’s version as it was given there. This bread is so simple to make, you will hardly believe it at first. It should be stressed from the outset that to get a good, open crumb in this type of bread, quick, gentle handling is a must. To learn the best method, watch our Handling Wet Dough Video.
- 15 oz. flour (either half bread flour and half all-purpose, or all-purpose only, plus more for dusting)
- ¼ tsp. instant dry yeast (IDY)
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- 12 ¼ oz. filtered, bottled (no salt added) or spring water
While you are weighing your flour, add in a few tablespoons of whole wheat flour and a few tablespoons of wheat germ before you reach your target weight with the other flours. Don’t exceed 15 ounces in total. Make it once, and you may want to experiment with other flour combinations, including up to 30 per cent whole grain or whole wheat, or 10 per cent rye.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour and the yeast. Add the water and stir until the dough begins to come together. Add the salt and continue stirring until blended. The dough will be very sticky. Using a plastic dough scraper dipped in cool water, transfer the dough into another large bowl that has been misted with spray oil. Cover this bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment, at warm room temperature (70o F), for at least 12 hours and as much as 18.
The dough is ready to go when the surface shows a consistent pattern of bubbles as it does below.
Using a plastic dough scraper dipped in cool water, very gently turn the dough out of the bowl onto a well floured work surface. (You can get an even layer on the surface by sprinkling the flour from a fine sieve.) Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little more flour. Gently place your floured left hand in the middle of the dough, then pull the end of the dough toward you a few inches with your right hand. Fold that portion to the center of the dough (where your hand was). Repeat with the other end of the dough, and then fold the dough into a rectangle, like a letter. Loosely cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for about 20 minutes.
While the dough is resting, turn a sheet pan upside down. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the flat side (or use a Silpat non-stick mat if you have one). Mist the parchment paper with spray oil. Now quickly and gently shape the dough into an approximate ball (shaping is not too important in this recipe; close will do.) Sprinkle the sprayed parchment paper with flour, and then flour your hands. Very gently place the dough, seam side down, on the parchment paper. Mist the surface of the dough with spray oil, dust with flour, and cover completely but loosely with plastic wrap. Let it rise for about three hours in a warm, draft free area, or until more than doubles in size. It should not spring back quickly when you poke it with your finger.
A half hour, roughly, before the dough is ready, put a six quart, heavy, cast iron pot with the lid in place on the floor of your oven. The floor temperature should be 550o F. The pot can be round or oval, as the illustrations show, and the shape and size will affect the shape of the finished loaves (experiment here when you’ve made it once). A four quart pot, either round or oval, will result in a taller loaf.
Once the dough is ready, use oven mitts to take the pot out of the oven. Remove the lid. Slide the parchment paper off the pan onto your right hand and turn the dough, seam side up, into the pot. If the dough looks at all lumpy, give the pot a shake to even it out.
Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15 minutes or so until the bread is well browned. The internal temperature should be 205o F. Turn the bread out of the pot and cool completely on a wire rack.
There is no need to inject steam into your oven for this bread, because the covered pot traps the steam from the very wet dough.
Try stirring in chopped fresh herbs once the flour is hydrated in the bowl: chives, parsley, basil or oregano would make it go nicely with soft cheeses, such as Brie.
*This recipe has been adapted for wood-fired baking from the formula given in Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.