There are few things better in this world than freshly baked bread. The smell, the chewy center with a crunchy crust, and the warmth leftover from its time in the oven make it one of my favorite indulgences. In truth, I seem to lose all control around it as was evident when my brother came to visit a couple weeks ago. I had baked a loaf of bread for dinner that evening, but by the time we sat down for dinner it was a sorry sight with a huge gaping hole. I thought I was exhibiting great self-control by just nibbling on the crust, but I had obviously gotten a little carried away. Thankfully my family is forgiving and the bread was still delicious!
My love of fresh-baked bread means I want to make it every day, but I find that I only have time on the weekends. Multiple rises combined with kneading is time-consuming and it just doesn’t fit into my work week schedule. Or so I thought until a friend told me about this recipe for no-knead bread that was published in The New York Times a couple of years ago. The recipe comes from Jim Lahey of Sullivan’s Bakery and while the bread takes longer than your usual loaf to make, up to 20 hours, the good news is that you spend only a fraction of that time on it AND you don’t have to knead it. You see the long rise takes the place of kneading and gives you great tasting bread with just a little work and a little yeast.
But where’s the catch? There’s not one and the bread itself just gets easier with only 4 ingredients: flour, salt, water, and active dry yeast. Once these ingredients are combined, you don’t have to do a thing for at least 12 and up to 18 hours. Then you turn the dough out for a brief 15 minute rest and then a final 2 hour rise before baking it in a covered pot. The dough itself is very moist and baking it in a covered pot captures the steam and causes the crust to really crisp up. After thirty minutes, you remove the lid from the pot and allow the crust to brown to perfection.
While the original recipe is delicious, this bread is easily adapted. I’ve made a loaf with fresh rosemary, ground coriander seed, and pecans before and this past week I made a Cinnamon-Currant loaf. I recommend trying Jim Lahey’s original recipe or my adaptation below and then coming up with your own variation. You won’t be disappointed!
Cinnamon-Currant No Knead Bread
Makes 1 loaf
This bread makes delicious toast and is excellent with coffee in the morning. Once you uncover the pot, watch the bread carefully as the addition of sugar and butter mean the bread will brown more deeply and burn more quickly than the original recipe. The crumb of this bread is also more moist than the original no knead bread, because of the hygroscopic (water retaining) properties of sugar. Best served the day it is made, this bread will keep. However, if stored in a plastic bag the crust will lose some of its crispness.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup currants or raisins
Whisk together flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add water and stir until just combined.
Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and cinnamon and stir until combined. The sugar does not need to dissolve; it just needs to be incorporated into the mixture.
Pour butter mixture over flour mixture. Add raisins and stir briefly until combined.
Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for at least 12 and up to 18 hours.
Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. Fold dough over itself a couple of times, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cover a baking sheet with a cotton towel and dust generously with flour. Using flour as needed, shape the dough into a loaf and place seam side down on the cotton towel. Dust dough with more flour and cover with a second towel. Let rise for 2 hours.
Thirty minutes before baking, place rack in middle of oven and put a covered, heavy-bottomed 4 to 8-quart pot (Dutch ovens work great) on the rack. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Note: If pot has a plastic handle, cover handle with aluminum foil to protect it against the heat.
When the dough has finished its final rise, carefully remove the covered pot from the preheated oven. Lifting the dough with the towel, carefully turn dough into pot seam side up. Cover with lid and bake for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, remove lid and cook until desired brownness, about 15 minutes more. Remove bread from pot and place on wire rack to cool. Cool completely (if you can wait!) before serving.