Posted by Stephanie Simpson on
Want to know something crazy?
Remember that incredible no-knead bread recipe I posted back in January? You know, the one that lets you make amazing bread at home with pretty much no effort?
The guy who came up with it - Jim Lahey - wasn’t a $20,000-per-semester-culinary-institute-educated superhero baker when he started nailing down the method. He was just a guy willing to experiment; to view a less-than-perfect loaf not as a failure but rather as an opportunity to learn and improve. Because of that attitude, he was able to do something amazing.
And you can too! Today, I want to encourage you to take a page from his book and experiment. Start with a no-fail recipe for super-easy no-knead bread and, with a bit of creativity, you can create an incredible loaf that’s perfectly suited to anything!
To get you started, here are a few ideas on how to come up with a no-knead bread that’s all your own:
1. Harness the power of flour!
Swap flours and the taste and texture of your bread will change dramatically. Keep it simple and swap a bit of white for an equal quantity of whole wheat or rye, or get creative and add a bit of cornmeal, oatmeal, or multigrain cereal to the mix (check out the recipe below for a good ratio!).
2. Mix in something delicious!
At the same time you whisk together the dry ingredients, toss in herbs, spices, seeds, nuts, fruit, chocolate, cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes - whatever you want! And don’t feel like you need to skimp; Lahey’s book, My Bread, includes variations that call for a cup of nuts, or 2.5 cups of cheese.
Keep in mind that the characteristics of your additions - like salt, sugar, and moisture levels - will influence the way the dough tastes and rises. If you want to do something drastic - like add an ingredient that has a lot of extra salt, sugar, or moisture - you may want to check out a no-knead bread book for some guidance. Of course, you’re always welcome to drop me a line too!
3. Dig out your pots and pans.
While the original Lahey recipe has you bake the bread in cast-iron pot, you can achieve entirely new textures by stretching the dough over a pizza pan, popping it in a loaf pan, or shaping it into buns or baguettes and baking them on an oiled baking sheet. Depending on what you do, you may need to bake the dough for a bit more or less time - just keep an eye on it!
4. Try a new no-knead base.
While Lahey’s recipe is probably the most popular one around, there are lots of no-knead recipes out there. Test out a few to find your favourite! Pop the term “no-knead bread” into your library search page, amazon, or a search engine and see what you find!
Below, I’ve given you a recipe that does it all: swaps flours, incorporates additions, skips the cast-iron pot, and uses a new recipe. But there’s no need for you to do what I did; do whatever you want!
And remember: if your experiment doesn’t turn out exactly as planned, don’t be discouraged, be intrigued. If you keep track of the surprises - desirable and not - you’ll start to understand how bread works (for a quick primer, you can check out Lahey’s book). Keep at it and you’ll find a new favourite and maybe even your name in bakery lights. Lahey did!
Whole-Grain, Fruit & Seed, Sandwich-Style No-Knead Bread
(That’s a mouthful, hey? So is the bread!)
Adapted from Michael Smith
Makes 1 dense, delicious loaf
3 cups all purpose or bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup multigrain mix*
1½ tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast (instant or active dry)
1½ cups mixed nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or other tasty additions (bite-sized bits are best!)**
2¼ cups warm water
1. In a large bowl, whisk together all your dry ingredients (everything but the water). Add water and mix - with your hands or the handle of a wooden spoon - until you’ve incorporated all of the dry flour into the sticky dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest in a warm, dry place for 18 hours or until dough has doubled in volume and its surface is dotted with bubbles.
2. Once dough has doubled in volume, squish it around a bit to knock the air out of it, then toss it with a drizzle of oil - just enough to lightly coat it. Form the dough into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and let rise for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size. (It’s ready to go when an indent made in the dough doesn’t spring back into shape.)
3. When the dough is nearly ready to go (i.e., when it stops springing back), preheat your oven to 425°F. Once the oven is hot and your dough has finished rising, pop the loaf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden-brown.*** Remove from oven and allow to cool - out of the pan (it’ll get soggy otherwise) - completely before slicing!
*You can use all sorts of stuff here: oatmeal, cornmeal, multi-grain flour, or a multi-grain cereal mix. Fun!
**I used 1/2 cup each of: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries.
This post goes out to my snazzy pals, Chris and Jordan, who believe in eating good bread but not in their ability to make it. You guys can totally do this! It also goes out to my wonderful aunt Lynda, who’s always ready to share with me great meals, new recipes, and unique ingredients. It was on her suggestion that I added the seeds and cranberries to this loaf; toast has never been so good!