Well, I went and did it again. When I first learned about no-knead bread, I went crazy, baking loaf after loaf. Then after I gained like 5 pounds I realized I should take it easy, so I forced myself to ease off. I couldn't help it, it's the easiest recipe in the world for some of the best bread I've ever tasted! But then, my husband came home from the grocery store clutching a small jar of Nutella. OH SWEET LORD JESUS, THANK YOU FOR NUTELLA. Can I admit something embarrassing? I think the first time I ever tried Nutella was last year sometime. I knew it existed but I never bothered to try it. WHAT WAS I THINKING? But this post is about bread, right? Anyway, my husband brought home some Nutella so we could make some frozen yogurt and I couldn't stop thinking about fresh bread smeared with a huge dollop of Nutella. It haunted me for hours and then, at around 11 o'clock, I had a stroke of genius. DUH! JUST START A LOAF OF NO-KNEAD! Except, in my experience- my best loaves of no-knead bread have usually taken around 18-20 hours from start to finish, and I had to work the next day. Then I remembered reading an article recently about speeding up the process by- get this, it's CRAZY- using more yeast. Okay, that's not crazy. It's kind of a no-brainer, in fact, the original no-knead recipe that I started with even suggests using more yeast to speed up the process.
So, I set about making an "experimental" loaf of no-knead bread. I halved the original recipe, and chose an arbitrary amount of yeast, basically guessing the amount that would make it rise in the amount of time I wanted it to. I got lucky, and my loaf was beautiful.
Wait! Before bother to make this, make sure you have a deep casserole dish with a lid, or a dutch oven, or a big oven-safe stainless steel stockpot (which is what I use) or something you can COVER and put in the oven.
1 1/2 cups all purpose (or bread) flour
2 1/4 tsp. (or more, or less!) active dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup water
a sprinkle of cornmeal
Whisk dry ingredients to combine, then stir in water. Dough should be shaggy and a little wet. Add a few more drops of water if necessary. Place in a large oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rest for 8-10 hours. (While you're asleep!)
When you wake up, dough should be dotted with tiny bubbles. Turn out onto a floured surface and try to form it into a ball. You'll need a fair amount of flour, it's sticky. Let rest for 15 minutes uncovered, then cover with a non-terrycloth towel and let rise for 2 more hours. (Moms- a cotton receiving blanket works great.) Half an hour before loaf needs to go in the oven, place your pot inside and preheat to 450º. When preheated, remove pot from the oven, dust the bottom with some cornmeal, and place your loaf inside. Bake for about 25 minutes covered, then another 20 or so uncovered. Cool before slicing (or it will deflate). Makes one small (about 6" in diameter) loaf.
Okay, so it took a teeny bit longer than 8 hours. But you can experiment with the amount of yeast and cut down your rising time dramatically. I read a recipe that was double the ingredients as mine, that used a whole package of yeast, and apparently 4 hours was the trick. Luckily, I've developed enough patience to deal with it. By the time it was ready, my husband was practically begging me to slice it up and slather on some Nutella.
Learning how to bake no-knead bread was probably the biggest culinary revelation I've ever had. Seriously, I'm a big bread lover, and this is my FAVORITE bread. This afternoon I had a beautiful sandwich with mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. I gave my son buttered slices of toast for breakfast. I could bake this bread every day of my life, it's so simple and so tasty.
A quick note, I hear a lot from people about not having dutch ovens or large pots to cover. I don't have a dutch oven, but I'm lucky to have a set of pots & pans that are oven-safe. This recipe makes a mini loaf, so it shouldn't be too hard to drag out something you can pop in the oven. Now go make bread.