Ok, so. Those of you who know me know that I’ve been wanting – nay, yearning – to learn how to make bread. My relationship with yeast has been tepid, at best. I’m not talking about tepid as in the lukewarm water you’re supposed to use to activate the yeast. I mean every time I’ve ever tried using yeast, I’ve somehow killed it (the time I thought I was supposed to use 100 degree CELSIUS water, not 100 degree FAHRENHEIT – whoops), or it’s only partially risen (not enough rising time??), or it’s risen and then baked into a brick (no idea)!
I got The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Easy Artisan Bread from the library, without even knowing it was a collection of no-knead bread recipes. I’ve seen Michael Smith’s Chef at Home episode where he makes no-knead bread as per the technique developed by Jim Lahey and outlined in the New York Times piece by Mark Bittman. So I thought, how hard can it be? It’ll perfect for my computer weary arms.
The first try I did everything the book told me, including mixing the yeast in with the dry ingredients and then adding the liquid. Two hours of rising time went by and…nothing happened. My hopes dashed, I asked around and was told that I had to activate the yeast (I totally knew that…but I was following the book directions!)
Anyway, I made the recipe again, with already activated yeast, and viola – bread was made. Calgary is SUPER dry, so I ended up adding a full 1/2 to 1 cup more water than the recipe called for.
Classic French Boule – from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Easy Artisan Bread
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp instant or rapid rise yeast
1 1/4 – 2 1/4 cups lukewarm water (I activated the yeast in about 1/4 cup lukewarm water with 1 tsp sugar)
2 tbsp cornmeal
Stir everything but the cornmeal together in a large bowl, until it comes into a ball. Loosely cover with plastic wrap (and a damp tea towel) and let rise on the counter in a draft-free place for 2-3 hours. Place in the fridge and let sit overnight up to 48 hours.
Preheat a Dutch Oven (enameled pot) in a 425 F oven for 45 minutes. With floured hands on a well-floured surface, draw the dough together into a 6″ ball. Let rise, seam side up in a bowl (covered again with plastic wrap or a damp, floured towel) for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
Once the Dutch Oven is heated, sprinkle the cornmeal on the bottom and turn the dough into it (seam side down). Cover it and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake for 20 minutes more or until an internal temperature of 210 F is reached.
Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.