There are many good bread Instructables already, but when making bread, you can never have too many fail-safe techniques, and this recipe works almost every time.
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This is a four-hour process; you need that much time to let the dough rise. I like to throw it together while snacking on lunch, and then when I get home after school it is ready to throw in the oven.
My recipe differs from most no-knead recipes in that you do not drop it it into a heated pan. I changed the recipe because I had too many burns from handling a bread pan at 400+ degrees, and one of my Pyrex dishes shattered on me when I accidentally set the edge of it on a wet washcloth.
I hope you enjoy this tutorial and the resulting mouthwatering delicious bread.
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Step 1: Materials.
To make good bread, you need good flour. Flour which is marked "bread flour" typically has 11-12% protein (gluten) which is higher than normal flour. This allows the loaf to have good structure and texture. You can cut cheaper white flour with bread flour if you don't have enough of either.
If you are in Germany, type 550 flour works well. Thanks t.rohner and stryke!
I use yeast from a Polish market. While you can buy Fleischmann's yeast from the supermarket, it is really expensive, especially in packets. If you have access to an Eastern European or Balkan market, often they sell 1lb bags of yeast for just a few dollars, a huge savings over the grocery store stuff. You need a small spoonful, the amount is not critical.
I use sea salt, but you can use any kind of salt. Salt adds flavor and slows the growth of yeast slightly. I like to put about half a spoonful in.
You need a bake-proof container with a lid (the lid saves you from having to use foil every time and results in a more consistent crust). I got my Pyrex baking dish (visible in Step 7) at a local thrift store for just a few dollars. It is really the perfect dish for this kind of thing
3 cups flour.
Some salt. (see picture 2)
Some yeast. (see picture 2)
Step 2: Putting Things Together and Mixing Them.
Pour your ingredients in a bowl. Mix the dry ingredients a bit before adding 1.5 cups warm(ish) water.
Be sure to add the water slowly - pour it in a small but steady stream. Some flours take more or less. You just want your dough to be "shaggy" -- pictured in the next step.
Step 3: Making Your Dough "Shaggy".
Your dough should be this consistency or a little more damp. It's easy to add too much water -- it's better to add less, because when you let it sit for 4 hours, the water will diffuse through the loaf.
If you added too much, add more flour to get it back to "shaggy", my favorite texture.
Step 4: I Love Yeast
Cover the dough, put it in a warm place, and let the yeast rise. It's pretty amazing to watch them go.
These images cover a span of about 4 hours. You can do more, but you'll get poor results with less. Click on the second image for an animation of the dough rising.
This part is critical. I have an old burnt pan that I use for just this purpose.
Put a tablespoon or so of oil on the surface.
Let the oil spread around.
Remove the dough from your mixing bowl. Mash it once as shown. Do not mash or knead it any more than once or, if you must, two times.
Roll up the flat thing you just made.
Done with this step!
Step 6: Into the Dish!
Place the dough in a Pyrex baking dish, "ugly side up". Doing this allows the dough to easily expand and makes for an interesting surface.
I like to salt my bread at this point. The surface is oily and catches the salt nicely. Be generous with the salt; you won't regret it.
Other things I like to put on top:
A dash of sugar and black pepper OR
A streak of honey (if I plan to eat it with butter/jam) OR
Basil and sun dried tomato pieces OR
A splash of garlic vinegar OR
Step 7: Pre-Oven Prep
Now cover the loaf in the baking pan. You have to let it "rest" in order to have it bake properly. By now, you're probably starving, but don't rush this step.
To make the wait easier, preheat your oven to around 450 degrees F.
Step 8: INTO THE DARKNESS
Put your dough in the oven.
Pour some water on your hands for your dead yeasties.
Step 9: Baking
Bake your bread for 30 minutes with the cover on.
Then, if you want an extra crispy, nutty, amazing crust, remove the lid and bake 5 more minutes.
Step 10: ENJOY.
By now, your whole house smells of baking and you're starving. Take the loaf from the oven, remove it from the pan, and let it cool for a minute. Cut it with a bread knife or tear it open with your hands like a hungry caveman.
One of the simplest and most delicious things to eat with the finished product is a small bowl with oil, salt, and Italian spices like basil. I like to keep such a bowl in my fridge, ready for each new loaf. Dipping fresh bread in such a mixture is just outstanding eating.
I won't even go into the money you'll save baking for yourself, because if you could buy this kind of bread at the store, you wouldn't care what it cost.