No-knead Italian bread
The three keys to this incredibly simple recipe are a good cast iron Dutch oven (we use Le Creuset, 3.5 quart size, but 2 ¾ quart size is fine for this recipe), good bread flour (such as King Arthur bread flour), and planning ahead. Since the dough has to rise 12-18 hours, we mix it the night before we plan to eat it, and finish the process in mid-afternoon the following day.
- 3 cups white bread flour
- 1 5/8 cup warm water
- ¼ tsp. active dry yeast (not the rapid rise variety, if possible)
- 1 ¾ tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. wheat gluten
Sift together the dry ingredients. Sift twice if you're feeling ambitious: it never hurts and sometimes helps. Add the water and stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it rise for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature. If it doesn't rise well, you might consider putting it in the oven (but only if you have an electric oven), and leave the oven light on. Our other trick is to heat a few cups of water in the microwave, then put the bowl in the microwave: the heat and moisture seem to help. The dough will look soggy for most of that time, but will form bubbles and start to look like real bread dough eventually. After at least 12 hours but no more than 18, when the surface is dotted with bubbles, turn out of the bowl. Lightly dust with flour, fold dough over onto itself once or twice, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes. Using a little more flour (or cornmeal if you prefer), shape dough into a ball, place seam side down in bowl, and cover again with the plastic wrap. Allow dough to at least double in size, so that it doesn’t spring back readily when poked with a finger (about 2 hours)
At least 30 minutes before dough is ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with the Le Creuset in the oven, lid and all. Once preheated, dump in the dough, shake pan lightly to even it out, and brush a little water on the top for a crispy crust. Replace the cover and bake for 30 minutes, then take the lid off and bake another 20 minutes or until it looks slightly burned on top.
When done, put pot on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes then release from pot. Here’s the hard part: do not cut it for at least 20 minutes, no matter how good it smells! It will be gooey inside otherwise (not a terrible fate, but trust me, it’s worth the wait). The bread continues to cook during this time. If you listen closely, you’ll hear a crackling sound coming from the bread—chefs call this “letting it sing.” Seems appropriate…
There are many no-knead recipes out there: this one reminds us of or favorite Italian bakery in Jersey City.