If you love homemade bread but avoid yeast baking because it seems scary, complicated or labor-intensive, try this new slow-rise, no-knead recipe. It allows you to make amazingly easy and good yeast bread with a few basic ingredients and without appliances -- no bread machine, heavy-duty mixer or food processor.
Nor are any special bread making skills involved; stir the ingredients together, set the dough aside on the counter and forget it for 12 to 18 hours. The long, slow rise is vital, developing not only flavor but the gluten that normally would be produced by kneading. The next step is to stir the dough again, turn it out into a loaf pan and let it rise till it's ready to bake. The reward: a large, light, fine-textured loaf that will make you proud.
The only other key to success is to buy the "highly active" type of bread yeast and to check the expiration date on the packet or container to ensure that it is still active enough to use. The type needed comes dry in packets or jars labeled "rapid rise," "quick rise," "bread machine" or "instant." Also, don't think that more yeast is better; use only the 1/8 teaspoon the recipe calls for.
The bread will keep at room temperature for 2 or 3 days. Freeze for longer storage.
Servings: 14 - 16
Yield: Makes 1 large loaf (14 to 16 slices)
- For the first stage
- 3 cups (15 ounces) white flour or white bread flour
- 1 cup (5 ounces) whole-wheat flour (or substitute 1 cup white flour to make an all-white bread)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/8 teaspoon "rapid rise," "quick rise," "bread machine" or "instant" yeast
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or 1 1/2 tablespoons corn oil, plus extra melted butter or oil for coating the dough top
- 2 cups room-temperature water
- For the second stage
- 1 teaspoon melted unsalted butter or corn oil for coating loaf top
- 1/2 tablespoon whole-wheat flour, for garnish
For the first stage: Thoroughly combine the flours, sugar, salt and yeast in a 3-quart or larger bowl; mix with a large spoon. Add the butter or oil and water, stirring vigorously until well combined; the dough may be stiff. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a greased flexible spatula. Drizzle the dough top with about a teaspoon of melted butter or oil; use a pastry brush or your fingertips to spread it evenly over the dough. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside at a room temperature of about 70 degrees or cooler for 12 to 18 hours.
For the second stage: Vigorously stir the dough until it deflates. Generously coat a 9-by-5-inch or similar large (1 3/4- to 2-quart) loaf pan with nonstick cooking oil spray. Turn out the dough into the pan. Drizzle the melted butter or vegetable oil over the loaf top, then spread it out with a pastry brush or your fingertips until the surface is evenly coated and looks smooth. Sift about 1/2 tablespoon flour evenly over the loaf top. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap.
For a "regular" rise: Let stand at room temperature for 45 to 75 minutes or until the dough nearly reaches the pan rim. (The time will vary considerably depending on the temperature of the room and the length of the first rise.) Gently remove the plastic. Let it stand until the dough top rises 1/4 inch above the rim.
For a "quick" rise: Place a microwave-safe cup containing 1 cup of water in a rear corner of the microwave oven. Microwave for 2 minutes, until the water almost boils. Put the loaf in the microwave oven as far from the water as possible. Let it rise 30 to 50 minutes, or until the dough nears the pan rim. Gently remove the plastic. Continue the rise until the dough top is 1/4 inch above the rim.
For baking: Position an oven rack in the middle third of the oven; preheat to 425 degrees. Gently transfer the pan to the oven; jarring can cause deflating. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the loaf is well browned on top and sounds hollow when thumped with a finger. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for several minutes, then run a knife around the loaf to loosen. Transfer the loaf to the rack and let it cool completely before cutting it or storing in an airtight container.
From cookbook author and expert baker Nancy Baggett.
Tested by Emily Messner.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.