Let’s be honest here, this post should be titled “crack bread” because this is a VERY addictive loaf. My friend Carlea mentioned on Twitter that her husband Geoff was going to make some more of his crack bread that week. Me being the ever curious one, I had to ask her for the recipe. Geoff sent it to me and I was surprised to see how easy it was to make. There were only six ingredients and the instructions were very easy to follow. The only thing that stood out to me was the fact that the dough had to sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours (and up to 18). Otherwise, I didn’t see how this simple little recipe could result in bread that would lead Carlea to wax poetically about it on social media. But I decided to give the recipe a try, so on Saturday before I went out to play in the snow, I made the dough.
And took all of these pictures:
As you can see, I was fully enjoying Snowpocalypse 2009 and had all but forgotten about the dough sitting patiently on the kitchen counter. But after heading back from merriment and fun out in the snow, I dusted myself off, got myself warm and proceeded to make the bread. I followed the instructions exactly, baking the bread in my big, red Dutch oven after letting it rise for 2 hours. The smell of fresh bread permeated the apartment with its rustic, rich aroma. When I took the bread out, I dutifully removed it from the oven and set it on a wire rack. But then the recipe said to wait 2 hours before eating it. Two HOURS?!?! To wait to eat this beautifully hearty looking loaf of bread?!?! It was like showing a five year old a beautifully wrapped Christmas present and telling him he couldn’t open it just yet. I waited as long as I could (read: five minutes) and then tore into the bread. And that’s when I finally understood what Carlea meant when she called it crack bread. It had a crispy exterior and a soft, almost pillow-like interior. It was rustic enough to be used as an instrument to sweep up all of The Boy’s arrabbiata pasta sauce. But it was also just as delicious smeared with real butter and eaten alone. The loaf pictured above is already gone and The Boy’s pestered me into making another one. So here I sit, anxiously waiting for about 10 hours to pass before I can tear into another lovely loaf…and I may even wait 2 hours for it to cool this time. Maybe…
Recipe: Almost No Knead Bread (from Cook’s Illustrated)
- 3 cups all purpose, unbleached flour, plus more for dusting work surface
- 1/4 tsp instant or rapid rise yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tbs water, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs mild flavored lager (code word for cheap beer)
- 1 tbs white vinegar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, yeast and salt and whisk them together. In a large measuring container, combine the water, vinegar and beer and whisk them together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold them together with a sturdy spatula until a shaggy dough ball is formed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (I used a shower cap I reserve for all my baking needs) and let it sit on the counter at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours. The longer it sits, the more richer flavor the dough will yield.
- After the rest period, knead the dough 10 to 15 times (you can do this by hand or with your stand mixer).
- Once the dough is ready, place a 12 by 18 inch sheet of parchment paper (sprayed with cooking spray) in a 10 inch skillet. Place the dough in the parchment paper lined skillet and cover again with plastic wrap (or your handy shower cap) and allow the dough to rise for 2 hours.
- 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake the bread, place an oven rack at the lowest position. Place a 6 to 8 inch quart Dutch oven with its lid on the rack and heat oven to 500 degrees.
- When the dough has fully risen, lightly flour the top of it and make a 6 inch long, 1/2 inch deep slit along the top. Using oven mitts, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid. Pick up the dough from the skillet by the parchment paper and carefully lower it into the Dutch oven. Let any excess paper hang over the edge of the Dutch oven. Put the lid back on the pot and place it in the oven.
- Reduce the temperature to 425 degrees and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid from the pot and continue baking the bread until it is golden brown and an instant read thermometer reads 210 when pushed into the center.
- Remove the bread from the pot by the parchment paper and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 2 hours (or until you can’t take it anymore).