No Knead Bread Redux

An easy alternative to buying bread

No Knead Bread Redux

An easy alternative to buying bread

This is a recommendation for a recipe as well as an encouragement for bread lovers to overcome any fear of rising dough and to start making your own basic bread with help from Joanna Cismaru of the cooking blog, Jo Cooks

The recipe has its origins with Jim Leahy, famous of NYC's Sullivan Street Bakery and renown for his No-Knead Bread.  It became a phenomenon in 2006 when Mark Bittman showcased Leahy's method in The New York Times.  The recipe went viral and was deemed "genius."

I tried Leahy's recipe when it first came to fame.  I've made bread often enough and although I am far from expert, I found the original "no knead" technique was still a bit of a fuss.  True, you didn't have to knead the dough but it required nearly 20 hours and two rises to produce a simple white loaf.  Tasty, yes, but still simple.  Leahy's method was thought unconventional: while it eliminated the kneading it added nearly a day of waiting for a long, slow, two-part rise, meaning you must handle the dough twice.  If I were to make this kind of time and care commitment, I wanted to produce a dark crusted levain and not a plain white bread. So I went back to buying my bread.

I can't be the only one who resents having to pay $3.00 (or more!) for a decent loaf of bread, especially ones made with good ingredients and that have flavor.  So I went on the hunt for a recipe or method for making a simple bread that would be good-to-great for morning toast or croutons but was one step less (i.e., only one rise) than Leahy's version. 

This is when I found Jo Cooks.  Joanna Cismaru, the Jo in Jo Cooks, has adjusted the original Leahy method, making it simpler and bullet proof with an excellent and tender round loaf to show for it at the end.  You'll still need a schedule that lets you wait for a dough that must rise untouched for 12 to 18 hours, but after that it's a breeze. 

Here's her recipe.

Jo's recipe comes with photos and a hugely helpful video that shows each step so if you've never made bread before, you'll be well guided.  If you still have questions, read the comments because others have probably had them, too, and Jo has answers and tips.

I'll often mix the dough at the end of the day if I want to bake the bread early in the morning (it bakes in 45 minutes), or if I want to bake it mid-day on a weekend I will mix the dough the night before.  It just needs a bit of planning.

The bread is made with four ingredients:  all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur's organic), salt, active dry yeast, and tap water.  It only needs one rise, no fancy tools or kitchen towels to lift the dough into a preheated pot (instead you just dust your hands with flour -- this works well, although I use a dough scraper to help scoop the soft, finished dough out of its bowl and into my floured hands), and a cast iron pot that's about 3 1/2 to 4 quarts. 

Here is the cast iron pot that I use, made by Staub (which I use for tons of other recipes; it's particularly great for rice dishes), but as long as your pot has a cover and can go in a 450º F oven, it will work.  There's more about different types of pots and what happens if you use a larger one in the recipe comment section. 

I served some just-made bread with a salad during a recent dinner for my brother and sister-in-law and it was such a hit that my brother-in-law -- who is not at all a cook -- wanted to know how to make it.  Armed with the recipe from Jo Cooks and a new cast iron pot, he is now a weekly bread baker, passing on the recipe to his friends like an old fashioned chain letter.

So make some bread this week.  Your friends and family will sing your praises and ask you to pass the butter. 





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