It’s officially been over a year since I posted anything on my site. An entire year hiatus! Many things have changed in my life over the course of the past year, but the biggest factor in my lack of posting, is the fact that I no longer have floor to ceiling windows for all that great food imagery. I’ve moved to the other side of town, changed jobs twice, and gone on two adventure trips (with another coming in February), since I last shared anything with you!
To be honest, my hiatus was long enough that I considered closing down the site. Oddly enough, I refer back to WP quite often to double check my own recipes… so I figured at the very least; I should keep it as my own personal recipe library. But, I’ve put far too much work into this project over too many years, to tear the whole thing down.
So, Thank You for your patience. After all that, I’m still here. Back to it we go!
You all know I cook and bake primarily things with limited ingredients and simple methods, and in keeping this theme humming along – I share with you: another no knead bread loaf. This one with an extra long fermentation. If you are part of the bread baker universe, be you a homebaker or professional, you know who Jim Lahey is. You probably also know I love the concept of his no knead method, and have posted about it here several times. I got a steal of a deal on a 5 qt Staub cocotte a few months back, and have been excited to get back to experimenting with this formula.
There are now many versions of Jim’s recipe floating around on the interweb, so if you feel so inclined – do check them out. This version had a first fermentation length of 21 hours, and a second rest of about and hour and a half to two hours, at a ‘not super warm and cozy’ room temperature.
I also used bread flour as per the original, where some versions of this recipe by homebakers call for all purpose. For an exceptionally hard and delightfully crackly crust, higher protein flour is better. I will be trying different types of flour with this formula over the winter months, so be sure to check back for new experiments, and their hopefully successful outcomes.
Rather than write out this entire thing as if it were my own, click here for Jim’s own words and instructions. I will add the following tips and tricks for anyone wanting to try this, who doesn’t have bread baking experience (and don’t shy away if you don’t, it’s easy!) :
1 – Plan ahead. Calculate the time you’ll need to ferment the dough for the proper length of time. Be sure you aren’t preparing the dough at a time that requires you to bake it at 3 am! Unless of course, you plan to be awake at 3 am!
2 – Do not skimp on the fermentation time. Don’t rush the dough, give it the full 12 to 18 hours that the recipe states. Mine was 21 on the first leg, and it was lovely. Patience. The longer the better.
3 – Make sure your work surface is nice floury mess. Keep your hands and countertop moderately to heavily floured, it’s a very sticky dough to work with.
4 – Properly preheat your dutch oven before putting the dough inside. And yes, a dutch oven is absolutely required for this recipe. You can use a heavy bottomed pot with a lid as well, so long as your vessel can withstand up to 475F in the oven for an extended period of time. The dutch oven creates an atmosphere for the loaf like that of a professional bread baking oven, in that it holds in the gasses that are released from the loaf as it bakes, creating a steamy, crust-developing environment that makes for the beautiful exterior you’re aiming for.
5 – Bake until dark in colour. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing so many pale looking loaves, that are taken from the oven too soon. Trust me when I tell you that there’s a reason the best bakeries out there have nice dark ears on those loaves, before they’re set to rest. Click here for proof. If you bake your loaf for the time stated in the recipe, and it still looks light caramel… keep baking it. Make sure you do in fact set your oven to the 475F, a lower temperature will not achieve the same loaf. Don’t worry, it’s not burned – it’s beautiful!
6 – Remove the loaf from the dutch oven once it’s baked and cool it on a wire rack. This allows the loaf to breathe, and keeps the crust nice and hard. Never wrap the loaf or cover it while it’s still resting and warm. Moisture trapped inside will soften the crust and change the development of the crumb.
7 – Never lose patience and cut into the loaf before it’s fully cooled. Always allow the loaf to rest until there is no longer warmth coming from it. This takes anywhere from one to two hours depending on your room temperature. If the loaf still feels warm to the touch, back off! By this point you’ve already waited more than a day, so what’s another hour?
8 – And lastly, do not… be intimidated by the length of time this bread requires. The actual hands-on portion of this recipe, is no longer than 10-15 minutes. All you really need to do, is time your start properly, and make sure you’re around to bake it after the proper amount of time. It takes very little expertise or effort. What’s not to like about that?!
Comments are welcome, as always. So don’t be afraid to reach out and ask further questions before getting started if need be!
Be sure you read through the entirety of Jim’s recipe before starting anything.
Ciao for now!