Here is a fantastically easy yeast bread recipe for everyone out there practicing social distancing: No-Knead Crusty White Bread. This recipe bakes up a crusty artisan loaf that anyone would be proud of.
And here is some more awesomeness about it – once you mix the dough up it just sits in your fridge, developing more and more flavor, until you are ready to bake it! Yup, just pinch off a bit of the dough – as much as you want for your evening meal – and leave the rest in the fridge. You heard me – multiple loaves of fresh bread in a week with minimal effort! Oh – bestill my heart!!!
I know some folks are a little nervous about baking anything with yeast. I was that way in the past. But seriously, you’ve got to just get over it and take the plunge. Well, I guess you need to make sure you have the ingredients. There was a run on flour and yeast when all of the lockdowns started happening. I had yeast, but found myself running low on flour. I had mentioned to you in a couple of posts back that I was eagerly awaiting a delivery from Giant’s Peapod grocery delivery service. I had to wait about three weeks to get a delivery time slot and had no idea what I would be getting from my list as the service had stipulated that certain items might be removed depending on availability. So, it would be a surprise – kind of like Christmas morning. It turned out it was more like Christmas morning than I had intended as the time slot I got was 6:30 am – 8:30 am and don’t you know it, that driver was at my door at 6:30 am sharp. Yeah, we are definitely not early birds around here but it was a pretty big day for us, so while not bright eyed and bushy tailed, we were awake and ready. While I am grateful to get anything without having to venture to the store, I must say Peapod did not win me over. I ended up not getting about 1/2 of the items on my list. The biggest disappointments of the missing items for me were no flour and no sugar. And some of the produce that was sent to me were not items I would have picked – ie. the apples had big brown spots and were going bad. The other delivery services I was aware of, like Instacart, had absolutely no availability. So I decided to take a look at Harris Teeter ExpressLane. They offered an express service whereby you could order and pay online, then one of their personal shoppers would pick out your items and finally all you would have to do is just drive up to the store and someone would come out and put the items in your trunk. Nice & contactless! The problem there was getting a time slot. When I looked, everything was booked out for six days. So I readied the items in my cart and just sat there refreshing the page. Kind of like trying to score tickets to a hot concert. And voila – a time slot suddenly came available just two days away, so I grabbed it immediately! I must say, it was a much better experience. Not only did I not have to wait nearly a month, but I was also able to purchase two bags of King Arthur Flour and two bags of sugar! Score! And I know you will find this hard to believe, but they even were able to grant my toilet paper wish! SUPER AMAZING score!!!
Oh yeah, but back to this wonderful Crusty White Bread I was telling you about. This is such an easy-peasy recipe!
I will say that if you are an experienced bread baker, this dough is much stickier than what you will be used to. You will end up using a good amount of flour while shaping it! But don’t fret, it will actually bake up very nicely. I experimented with baking one of the batches I made in a dutch oven and was very pleased with the result. The bread did rise up higher and the crust was absolutely phenomenal – crisp and chewy, glossy and golden – as if it came out of a professional bakery!
Apparently the steam that is created and sealed in when you slip the dough into the preheated Dutch oven is the thing that transforms the crust. I have included some info on how this is done below and here is a helpful article from King Arthur Flour on Bread Baking in a Dutch Oven. Just for comparison, I also baked a couple of loaves simply on a bread stone, following the recipe below, and they came out quite lovely as well. The crust was not as crackly or crisp but still had a deliciously chewy texture.
If it is your first time baking yeast bread, I urge you to give this recipe a try.You will be amazed at the masterpiece that will come out of your oven. No doubt you’ll be a bread baking convert!
No-Knead Crusty White Bread
recipe from: King Arthur Flour
- 7 1/2 cups (907g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 3 cups (680g) lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (14g) instant yeast or active dry yeast
The flour/liquid ratio is important in this recipe, so measure carefully. Your best bet is to weigh the flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or a large (6-quart), food-safe plastic bucket. For first-timers, “lukewarm” means about 95° – 105°F, but don’t stress over getting the temperatures exact here. Comfortably warm is fine; “OUCH, that’s hot!” is not. Yeast is a living thing; treat it nicely.
Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a big spoon or dough whisk until everything is combined.
Next, you’re going to let the dough rise. If you’ve made the dough in a plastic bucket, you’re all set — just let it stay there, covering the bucket with a lid or plastic wrap; a shower cap actually works well here. If you’ve made the dough in a bowl that’s not at least 6-quart capacity, transfer it to a large bowl; it’s going to rise a lot. There’s no need to grease the bowl, though you can if you like; it makes it a bit easier to get the dough out when it’s time to bake bread.
Cover the bowl or bucket, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. (If you’re pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it’ll get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it’ll rise, then fall. That’s OK; that’s what it’s supposed to do.
When you’re ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, (Seriously. Grease. Your. Hands. This dough is really sticky!) and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough — a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It’ll be about the size of a softball, or a large grapefruit.
Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface (let me repeat that – FLOURED. Work Surface. Again – this dough is Sticky!), and round it into a ball, or a longer log. Don’t fuss around trying to make it perfect; just do the best you can. If you would like to try your hand at baking in a Dutch Oven – see notes below*
Place the loaf on a piece of floured parchment (if you’re going to use a baking stone); or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the bread moist as it rests before baking.
Let the loaf warm to room temperature and rise; this should take about 60 minutes (or longer, up to a couple of hours, if your house is cool). It won’t appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it’ll seem to settle and expand. Preheat your oven to 450°F while the loaf rests. If you’re using a baking stone, position it on a middle rack while the oven preheats. Place a shallow metal or cast iron pan (not glass, Pyrex, or ceramic) on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go.
When you’re ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2″ deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that’s OK, it’ll pick right up in the hot oven.
Place the bread in the oven — onto the baking stone, if you’re using one, or simply onto a middle rack, if it’s on a pan — and carefully pour the 1 cup hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It’ll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly.
Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown.
Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.
* Notes on Baking in a Dutch Oven:
When you are ready to bake, measure out a two pound ball of dough. Shape the dough as best you can, on a piece of floured parchment. Leave the dough ball seam side up. Again this dough is ridiculously sticky. Be very liberal with the flour.
Preheat your dutch oven 30 minutes prior to your loaf being ready to bake. I used a 3.5 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven. A 4.5 quart oven should work as well.
When ready to bake, remove the hot Dutch Oven and spray the interior with a burst of vegetable oil non-stick spray and sprinkle cornmeal in the bottom of the pan to prevent the bread from sticking.
Slide your hand under the parchment paper and plop the dough into the hot pan. Don’t fret if the dough sticks to the parchment a bit. Mine did and it caused the dough to deflate a bit, but again all was well.
Make a few slashes in the top of the loaf. A bread lamé would work great here. I did not have one and had difficulty fitting my knife into the hot pan without hitting my wrist on the edge – OUCH!
Bake 25 – 30 minutes and then remove the lid and bake for another 5 – 10.
Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for No-Knead Crusty White Bread: