Friday, February 20, 2009

No-Knead Sourdough Bread

When I needed to get out of town last summer, we headed out to the Cape to stay with our friends, Bob and Jeanne. Bob has been baking bread for as long as I’ve known him, and I've known him a very long time, so he knows what he's doing and his sourdough loaves are a thing of beauty. When he offered me some of his starter, though, a red flag went up in my head. If you’ve ever had experience with sourdough, you know what I mean. It’s like coming home with a pet that must be fed and tended to and I wasn't sure I was up to the task. But Bob made bread making look so simple and effortless that I threw caution to the wind and accepted his gift.

Bob's boule, the object of my envy

The sourdough sat in its one quart Ball jar in the back of my refrigerator. Every couple of weeks I'd pull it out, scoop out a cup to use in one recipe or another, then feed it. I would add 3/4 cup of flour and 3/4 cup of water to the jar, mix it all together and leave it on the kitchen counter until it comes alive and starts to bubble, usually a couple of hours. Then I'd put it back in the refrigerator to hang out for another couple of weeks.

This went on for several months as I baked decent loaves of bread and made wonderful waffles for breakfast. Bob's beautiful crust and crumb eluded me, however, until I discovered the no-knead method of bread making made famous by Jim Lahey a few years back. I’ve adapted Jim's recipe to use sourdough instead of yeast, and the result is perfection itself. The process is insanely simple, with a bowl and a wooden spoon the dough comes together in two minutes flat, no fussy measuring, no kneading, with only a spoon to wash.

The loaves come out of the oven rustic and gorgeous every single time. Cut through the crispy, thin crust, and the inside is holey, light and chewy. I’ve made more than a dozen loaves over the last few weeks. I can’t seem to stop making it and my kitchen smells like a French bakery. So to those of you who’ve adopted my sourdough, you must make this bread, and to everyone else out there, get your hands on some sourdough, even if you have to beg or steal or, better yet, make your own starter. DO IT! It will make you happy.

Recipe for No-Knead Bread
In a large bowl, mix together
2 - 3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sourdough
1 cup water
3/4 TBS kosher salt
The dough should come together in a shaggy ball, sticky and wet. I let it rise in the same bowl that I mixed it in, mine came with a plastic lid that I put loosely over the top but a damp kitchen towel will also work. Let sit on the counter from 8 to 12 hours. I've left it for as long as 24. This is a very forgiving dough, I usually mix it up sometime during the day and leave it over night then shape and bake any time the next day.
Here's what the dough looks like after 12 hours or so.

Transfer onto a generously floured board, being careful not break the bubbles, gently shape into a ball. and let sit while oven is preheating. Put a heavy 5-quart dutch oven with its lid, side by side, in the oven, preheat to 500F. Any large, heavy pot will do, I've used Le Creuset and All Clad, both work very well.

When the oven is at 500F gently place the very soft dough into the pot. Don't worry about how it lands or how it looks, it'll still come out perfectly baked. Cover and bake 20 minute.
After 20 minutes, a pale crust forms.
Remove lid and continue baking another 20 to 30 minutes until deep golden and internal temperature between 200 and 210 degrees F.
Remove to a cooling rack and listen for the crackling sound the crust makes as it cools.


Amy D said...

Wow, Ting, you make this look so easy! Maybe I can borrow some starter next time I see you?

Unknown said...

Ting, I love Sourdough bread but I have never gotten the crust to work as well as i'd like. I'm going to have to try this one. Thanks!