I don't know if I've told you before, but I possess excellent bread-making skills (and I'm totes proud of myself). I’m not a great cook, and a terrible baker, so the fact that I have mastered bread is a huge achievement for me. The point is, if I can do it, anyone can. So I thought I’d share how I do it.
My technique is based on the New York Times ‘No-Knead Bread’ recipe. After many, many attempts, I’ve made a few changes to the recipe so it’s completely failsafe. Please note that my cooking style is akin to the Chef from the Muppets (rather slap dash, at best), so this bread recipe is perfect for anyone – no precise baking skills needed. So here goes:
3 cups plain flour
¼ teaspoon dry instant yeast
1 ¼ teaspoon fine salt
1 ½ (ish) cups room-temperature water
1 – In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast and salt together. Form a well in the middle. (Peita’s note: I always add a pinch more yeast and salt than the recipe says. Always works that way).
2 – Add one cup of water into the well. Mix together the flour mixture and water with your hands. Add another half cup of water until the dough is pretty wet and sticky (Peita’s note: I add the half cup of water is small splashes until the dough is nice and sticky. It’s better to get the dough wetness correct than the water measurement perfect). Cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave overnight or for around 8 hours (Peita’s note: I put the dough together just before I go to bed. Then it’s perfect in the morning).
3 – The following day, you’ll notice the wet dough has lots of lovely little bubbles. This means it’s ready for the next step. Sprinkle flour on a clean bench. Lay out a clean tea towel (not terry-cloth) on the bench and sprinkle flour liberally. Put some flour on your hands and scrape the dough out of the bowl.
4 – Spread the dough flat on the flour on the bench in a rough square shape. Fold in each corner like an envelope. The bread should now be a smaller square with seams on the top. Place the folded up square seam-down on the tea towel. Sprinkle some more flour on the dough then fold the tea towel over the dough. Leave for one and a half hours.
spread the wet dough on the bench
fold in every side
put on a floured tea-towel and lightly wrap
5 – At the one hour mark, turn the oven on to 220 degrees celsius. Place a round, lidded cast iron pot (like a Le Creuset pot) into the oven and let it reach temperature.
6 – At around the 1.5 hour point, get the hot cast iron pot out of the oven. Unwrap the dough (it will have formed a leathery crust on the outside) and plop it SEAM SIDE UP in the pot (Peita’s note: if the seams have faded a bit, I get a knife and lightly cut them back in. They should be in a rough cross shape). Shake the dough a bit to make sure it is sitting properly in the pot then place the lid back on the pot and bake it for 30 minutes.
7 – After 30 minutes, take the pot out of the oven, shake it to make sure it’s not stuck, then put it back in the oven without the lid. Cook for another 15-17 minutes until it’s toasty brown on top.
8 – Remove bread from the pot and let it cool. I’ve learnt from experience that you need to let it cool for at least half an hour before cutting into it (I get a bit over enthusiastic sometimes) otherwise it loses its nice crust.
9 – Eat it warm with butter.
10 – Don’t forget to share it with your loved ones.
- You can leave the dough in the bowl overnight and during the next day without causing any problems. But once the wet dough is out of the bowl and in its nicely wrapped, floured parcel in the tea towel, don’t leave it sitting for more than an hour and a half. If you do, it gets too wet and loses the nice leathery crust – you’ll end up with a dense loaf of bread.