No-Knead Bread

Would you like to talk about bread? (Trick question - I am talking, and I plan to talk about bread. If you want to hear me go on about something else, or something specific, do let me know.)
Bread is what I missed most from home. Bread, and lentil soup. (Also Leberwurst, cheap yogurt, wildly creative müslis and crunchy granolas, good apples and juice, chocolate...). Perhaps not entirely a coincidence, but shortly after discovering baking bread, I started making lentil soup as well. (Also yogurt, and occasionally granola.)

Most recipes involve statements such as "and now knead for 10-15 minutes", require a breadstone, or generally just looked overwhelming. This one didn't, and from what I understand, I'm not the only one who found this to be the gateway drug into bread baking. It looks a little scary in terms of how long it takes from start to finish, but most of that time is completely hands-off, maybe 30 minutes or so of the 22 hours it takes are actually doing something, in 10-minute increments. (And that might include cleanup time.)
I finally talked myself into trying it after discovering bread flour at the supermarket and reasoning that I only needed to produce something better than I could buy, which set the bar fairly low.

The first loaf!

As recipes go, it's pretty simple.
Stir your flour, water, yeast and salt together.
Do nothing.
Eventually, roll dough in flour.
Do more nothing.

I suppose all bread recipes basically reduce to that, but this one actually isn't much more involved than that. What makes it brilliant is that it uses common kitchen equipment to get the effects of kneading, a breadstone, and steam, and by putting the seam-side of the loaf up, no scoring or talk of what knife to use or how to cut is necessary.

I didn't actually have any non-fuzzy kitchen towels, but I did have pillowcases. So on the second rise, I used one of those.
I also did not have a deeper pan with a lid, but we did have a casserole dish and aluminum foil. For some reason, that seemed perfectly doable. And it was. I've also seen good results without the aluminum foil tent or any lid at all, so if you don't feel like putting that together while handling a hot pan or dish of some sort, just leave it out. The bread might not rise quite as high, but it will still rise, and it will still be delicious.
If you use all-purpose instead of bread flour, it will still turn out fine. Again, might not rise quite as high, but will still be delightful.
I've substituted whole wheat flour too - it produces a very different, dense and delicious loaf. I would not recommend trying that for the first attempt - whole wheat flour absorbs more water than all-purpose or bread flour, so you will have to add more water to get a similar dough, otherwise the resulting bread might be a little dry. There are general guidelines, maybe two tablespoons more water per cup of flour? I don't quite remember, but being on an optimistic high from my success at the time, I didn't actually look anything up, which you can do, in breads. You can adjust by how the dough looks and feels when you stir it together and add more water accordingly, but it's much harder to do that if you have no idea what the original dough looks like.

Also, I didn't have a cooling rack. 
This worked.

It's a very tolerant recipe, after your first loaf (or, if you are brave, even then), you can tweak it with partial substitutions of other flours, adding in herbs, rolling in sesame seeds or stuffing with cheese or ham or whatever your heart desires - chances are, it will work out nicely.


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