I have been keeping something from you. Well, not keeping from you per se, but just not sharing. It is time to come clean. I’ve been baking a lot of bread.
No-knead bread to be exact. I’ve been making loaves to to serve to my classes and for every dinner party in recent memory. I know, no-knead bread is so 2008 (2006 is actually when it first graced the pages of the New York Times). What can I say? I’m a late adopter.
(This is the dough after the first rise.)
The fact that everyone was writing about it and raving about it is precisely why I decided not to make it. I was so over hearing and reading about it, so over it I didn’t even want to attempt making the bread. Which is a shame because this, as you have no doubt heard many times before, is the best bread I have ever made. And by far the easiest.
Jim Lahey’s wonderful book My Bread has wonderful step by step photos and includes many delectable variations of his masterpiece. Until recently, I did not feel any need to stray from the original. Why mess with perfection? But the cheese bread was calling my name. I decided to use, on Lahey’s recommendation, a young Pecorino. When I found myself in a cheese shop, I realized I had no idea of how much I was supposed to buy and decided to err on the side of too much. So, if you are attending one of my upcoming classes or coming to my house for a dinner party in the near future, you will be having cheese bread. There are worse things.
In my mind, there are only two tricky things about making this or any of the other no-knead breads in this book. One is timing and the other is getting the dough out of the towel and into the extremely hot pot without burning yourself. I can’t really give you any advice on the latter except be really careful. As for the former, this is what works for me. I start my dough at around 8pm the night before I want to serve the bread. That way, it will be done with it’s first (very long) rise around 2pm. I let it rise for another two hours which puts in the oven at around 4pm. After almost an hour of baking, it’s done around 5pm. That way, it has plenty of time to cool before I want to serve it. If you think starting a dough after you have already made and cleaned up dinner (and possibly given your kids a bath and read them stories) sounds daunting, it takes literally 2 minutes of your time to do.
One Year Ago: Black Bean Tostadas (Several people have told me they made these recently. Now I am craving them.)
Two Years Ago: Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake
Pane con Formaggio (Cheese Bread)
Makes one 10-inch loaf
Most good bakers will tell you to measure by weight, not by volume. I admit to usually resorting to my good old measuring cups – except with this recipe. I encourage you to try it here – even fewer dishes to wash!
3 cups bread flour, 400 grams
2½ cups pecorino Toscano, Asiago, or aged Fontina, cut into ½-inch cubes, 200 grams
1 tsp. table salt, 6 grams
¾ tsp. instant or other active dry yeast, 3 grams
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, 2 grams
1 1/3 cups cool water, 300 grams
wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour for dusting
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cheese, salt, yeast, and pepper. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.
2. When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, lift the edges of the dough in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.
3. Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. (DT: I always use cornmeal for this step. I like the added crunch.) Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with flour. Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
4. Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475ºF, with a rack in the lower third and place a covered 4½ to 5½ quart heavy pot in the center of the rack. (DT: I use a 4 quart Le Crueset pot with great success.)
5. Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.
6. Remove the lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 20 minutes more. Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to gently lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly.