Jim Lahey’s No-Work Bread

From “How to Cook Everything,” by Mark Bittman. This is the original, foolproof recipe. Use it as the basis for a multitude of additions and variations.
Jim Lahey’s No-Work Bread
Adapted from spokesman.com
Jim Lahey’s No-Work Bread

PREP TIME

--

minutes

TOTAL TIME

--

minutes

SERVINGS

1

servings

PREP TIME

--

minutes

TOTAL TIME

--

minutes

SERVINGS

1

servings

Adapted from spokesman.com

Ingredients

  • 4

    cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus flour for dusting

  • 1/2

    teaspoon instant yeast

  • 2

    teaspoons salt

  • 2

    cups water at about 70 degrees

  • 2

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (optional)

  • Cornmeal, semolina or wheat bran, as needed

Directions

Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and stir until blended; you’ll have a shaggy, sticky dough. (Add a little more water if it seems dry.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or put the olive oil in a second large bowl, transfer the dough to that, turn to coat with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for about 18 hours at about 70 degrees. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Rising time will be shorter at warmer temperatures, a bit longer if your kitchen is 60-65 degrees. Lightly flour a work surface, remove the dough and fold once or twice; it will be soft, but once sprinkled with flour, not terribly sticky. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for about 15 minutes. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton (not terry cloth) towel with cornmeal, semolina or wheat bran (or use a silicone baking mat); put the dough seam-side down on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel (or plastic wrap) and let rise for about two hours. When it’s ready, the dough will be more than doubled in size and won’t spring back readily when poked with your finger. At least a half-hour before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a 3- to 4-quart covered pot (with the cover) – it may be cast-iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic – in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and turn the dough over into the pot, seam-side up. (Slide your hand under the towel and just turn the dough over into the pot; it’s messy, and it probably won’t fall in artfully, but it will straighten out as it bakes.) Cover the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. (If at any point the dough starts to smell scorched, lower the heat a bit.) Remove the bread with a spatula or tongs and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Optional “Sped Up” variation: Reduce the initial rise to eight hours and skip the 15-minute resting period. (It won’t be quite as light and flavorful as the regular method.) Flour variations: • Substitute 1 or 2 cups (maximum) of whole-wheat flour for the same amount of white flour. • Substitute 1 cup of rye flour for the same amount of wheat flour. • Substitute 1/4 cup of cornmeal, preferably fine ground, for the same amount of white flour. Liquid variations: Substitute up to 1 cup of beer of any kind – flat is OK, too – for the same amount of water. Substitute 1 tablespoon of vinegar for the same amount of water. Additions: Here are just a few of the items you can toss in to the dough of your No-Work Bread: • Golden flax seeds • Sunflower seeds • Sesame seeds, either sprinkled atop the loaf or incorporated in the dough • Whole-wheat berries – soaked and softened beforehand. (The soft white wheat kernels will soften up faster than the hard red kernels.) • Cracked wheat – no need to soak • Parmesan cheese (add just before the second rising) • Chopped, pitted olives • Raisins • Dried cranberries • Toasted pecans (pairs well with the dried cranberries) • Chopped walnuts • Minced fresh rosemary, sage, or oregano • Minced fresh chives, parsley or dill • Roasted garlic, mashed or chopped

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