My children eat a lot of bread. Bread and pasta, the Italian mother’s dream perhaps? Certainly anathema to celeb personal trainers who suggest that after 30 you have to choose between Bread or Body.
In any case, we choose bread, always, but their (my) penchant for a freshly-baked-and-buttered slice has been harder to achieve when there isn’t the option of a daily trip to the bakery.
Not to mention, even before this whole dystopian year, a bakery-loaf-a-day was a somewhat expensive habit.
It was time to come up with some home baked alternatives. I’ve written about our favourite easy challah rolls before (here) and they remain a constant failsafe. However, they also require a little more care and attention, two eggs and a whopping two teaspoons of yeast – and if your lockdown experience has been anything like mine, it has involved treating yeast with the kind of care previously reserved only for expensive drugs and aromatherapy associates bath oils.
Only one of those categories is relevant in this house obviously and let’s just say when I found Wilf (3) pouring one of my bottles of bath oil down the sink (“I’ll make the sink smell nice mum”) I nearly cried. Okay I did cry, but let’s blame the Extreme Circumstances under which we are all living, rather than my dubious emotional state.
Something low on yeast, no eggs, and smug and lazy / simple enough that I could make it pretty much all day every day whilst homeschooling five children under ten. Enter: No Knead Bread.
Unlike the classic and rather more sophisticated corona soughdough that, admittedly, has taken up a lot of my Instagram envy, this requires absolutely no effort and yields an absolutely stalwart white loaf, perfect when sliced and made into sandwiches; toasted with all your favourite toppings; buttered and dipped in soup or EVEN, as I discovered after accidentally leaving a quarter of a loaf behind a packet in the pantry – even, equally delicious cubed, drizzled in oil and baked in a hot oven for croutons.
Sorry did you just want the recipe? I’m finished with the effusive intro. It’s not MY recipe because I am not clever enough to come up with this kind of saviour, in the form of a loaf.
I originally saw a very similar no-knead recipe from the Pinch of Yum Instagram – also delicious but a little on the heavier side. Then I tried Jim Lahey’s recipe, as adapted and made even simpler by Dinner a Love Story (here) and felt, as Dinner a Love Story warned me I would, ‘completely resentful that you ever spent a penny on that “artisanal” loaf’
Reader, this is a revelation. Made even simpler with the requirement for all-purpose / plain flour rather than anything more demanding of grocery stores like strong white bread flour (unseen for weeks).
For the non-north-Americans out there I also weighed the ingredients when I made it last night so that you can do this without the cup measures… but I need to find the piece of paper with the numbers. Bear with me.
3 Cups / all-purpose (plain) flour
1 heaped teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast
1 5/8 cups of luke warm water (I use one cup measure and then add 150mls)
Mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Add water; combine. It will be a pretty scraggy looking dough.
Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for 12-18 hours.
30mins before you want to bake the bread, turn dough out onto a large piece of floured parchment paper; preheat oven to 230C, with a large (6- to 8-quart) heavy covered pot in the oven as it heats.
Place the parchment paper with dough inside the pot, and cook covered for 30minutes. Then remove the lid and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes for the perfect crust.
Some things to consider from my extensive testing of this recipe. It really needs a slow rise. At least 12 hours, ideally more. I make the dough whilst I make the children’s supper – about 5pm. If I remember, or haven’t lost my mind from homeschooling exhaustion, then I use a spoon to turn the dough over as I head to bed around 11pm. And then I usually bake it at 9 or 10am, for a mid-morning slice and ready for lunch.
Also: you likely know this already, but I didn’t – if you can show a little restraint and wait for it to cool before slicing, the loaf will be at it’s best. I do not know the reasons behind any of these facts of bread baking, but I bet Paul Hollywood does:
More soon! With plans-a-changing and life around here updates. And a dangerously smug and lazy delicious cinnamon roll option for you.