Part of the allure of bread is its mystical quality. I've found that most people are in awe of the idea of baking bread. It seems to be the ultimate baking feat. Kneading, letting it rise, waiting, and baking... it's a lot of work. Especially for something cheap at the store, or can be made in a bread machine.
I've had great bread from a machine, but I really wanted to attempt making bread by hand. We don't own a machine and I wasn't about to go buy one (I know my track record with those kinds of things). But I was intimidated by the lengthy and touchy process. Until I found this recipe.
I saw the recipe for no-knead bread on several blogs that all raved about it. So I thought I'd give it a try. This loaf is called a boule. I won't rehash the directions because you can follow them yourself, but I do have some tips and pointers.
1. Read through the whole recipe at least once (twice if you can) before you even get out the measuring spoons. Make sure you have enough time and enough flour.
2. The recipe is called Five Minutes a Day for Fresh Bread, which I feel is vaguely misleading. Sure, maybe five minutes of hands-on-work, but the process will still take more than an hour.
3. Note that the recipe makes enough dough for FOUR loaves. The genius is that the dough will last for about two weeks in the fridge and simply needs some time to get to room temperature before baking (it can also be frozen). We made a loaf on Saturday, one on Sunday, and still have dough in the fridge.
4. You will need a pizza stone and ideally a pizza peel (for easy transport, but not crucial). Ask around on facebook for a pizza stone to borrow or buy for cheap. This is the kind of thing that people buy or get as gifts and then don't use. Ryan's mom gave us her's (we have also made pizza on it since getting it!). If you are sure you'll get tons of use out of it and have a place to store it, we hear Costco sometimes has them for a steal.
5. Use caution when pouring water into the broiler pan at bake time. I was surprised by the hot steam and spilled the whole thing in the oven, made a big mess, and we had to wash all the pans that live in the drawer under the oven. Also, use hot water for this like they suggest.
6. Don't let the bread totally cool before eating. It is best ten minutes after exiting the oven (we tested this), slathered in butter. Add a little kosher salt and you will be in heaven.
Enjoy! This recipe makes delicious bread (and that's coming from somewhat of a connoisseur!)
Both photos by me.