Big bubbles and a noisy crunch is what I look for in bread. For years I've been wanting to make bread. I used to think that it was one of those foods that is easier to buy than to make at home. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Another motivating factor is that homemade bread requires few ingredients that are all natural, unlike packaged versions full of preservatives.
This recipe originally came from Sullivan Bakery founder, Jim Lahey—the no-knead bread, which Mark Bittman published in The New York Times a couple of years ago. Inevitably, I tweaked it to make it my own. Some quantities have changed slightly—I've added whole wheat flour and oat bran, and slightly more water... oh and I don't weigh my flour, I just level the cups—I encourage you to do the same. Here is the basic recipe. Seeds, olives, and or dried fruit, even dark chocolate chips can be incorporated. You may even want to shape the loaf differently or cook it in a loaf pan. Have fun with this one.
TIP: I highly recommend you mix the ingredients in the afternoon the day before you actually want to bake the bread. Calculate the hours back so the bread is ready for the oven the minute you get up. There's nothing like turning on that oven, the aroma of freshly baked bread permeating the air first thing in the morning. Get the butter and jam ready!
TIP 2: While it is incredibly tempting to cut into the bread, when it first comes out of the oven, practice patience. Let the crumb cool, or it will collapse and get gummy, if you cut into it while still hot. Give it 15 minutes, or better yet 30 minutes.
TIP 3: I never touch the dough with my hands. I use a spoon to incorporate the ingredients, then a spatula to fold the dough. The only time my hands make contact with the bread is when it is fully baked.
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: 5 quart cast iron Dutch oven
Makes 1 boule
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast (quick rising)
1-3/4 cup filtered or spring water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons or more oat bran
1. In a large glass mixing bowl, sift the flours. Sprinkle the yeast and salt, make a well in the center and add the water. With a spoon, stir the water, gradually working the flour into it, until fully incorporated. Cover with a plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 16 hours. This should result in a wet dough that has more than doubled in volume.
2. With a spatula, gather the dough folding it twice onto itself to quickly form it into a boule. Cover with a plastic wrap once again and let stand for 2 hours.
3. One hour prior to baking, place the rack, one notch below the center of the oven and set the 5-quart Dutch oven with lid on top. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
4. Sprinkle the dough with half the oat bran. With oven mittens, quickly pull out the Dutch oven, remove the lid and roll out the dough, from mixing bowl to pot, so the dough lands, oat bran facing down. Sprinkle with more oat bran on top. Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes. It should be light golden at this point and more than doubled in volume. Remove lid and continue to bake until golden and crustier still, 10 to 15 minutes more.
5. Carefully remove boule from the Dutch oven, tapping its flat side. Look for a hollow sound, a sign that it is baked through. Transfer the boule to a cooling rack and let cool all the way.
Also try the water challah!