This is the recipe that got me started on my obsession with bread making and I have experimented with different flours. If you want to try using some spelt or rye in your mixture, then use less water (1 1/3 cups) I use American cups,(8fl oz/240ml). You could use a large teacup, and if this were a little larger or smaller, it should be ok because the most important thing is the proportion of water to flour.
There are two key things about this recipe. The first, as the title suggests, is that you don’t knead it- instead you leave the dough for a long time to ferment. This way the flour begins to break down into sugars and the gluten (which makes the dough stretchy) develops as the yeast feeds and grows slowly. The second is that its baked in a covered pot (any heavy heat proof pot with a tight fitting lid will do). Bakers use special steam ovens to get a good crust, and baking this relatively wet dough in a covered pot creates its own steamy atmosphere as it rises. The dough therefore remains wetter on the outside for longer and will have more time before it hardens and stops expanding. So you get a better rise and a better golden crust.
- 3 cups strong bread flour (any combination works, for the bread in the photos I used 3 cups white )
- 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast (it comes in sachets, make sure its not past its use by date)
- 1 1/2 cups of water
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- In a large bowl stir together the flour salt and yeast. Add the water and stir with a spoon until all the flour is hydrated. The dough will be sticky. Cover the bowl with cling film (or, better still, a disposable shower cap). Let the dough rest for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature. (I often start Saturday early afternoon, and I can then bake it on Sunday morning). This long slow fermentation is what is going to give your bread great flavour and texture.
- The dough is ready when its surface is covered with bubbles.
- Now sprinkle flour over your work surface and scrape all the dough out on to it, in a scraggy heap. Flour your hands and pull and stretch the dough out to the right and fold it in to the middle, then do the same to the left.
- Now flip the dough over, so it seams are at the bottom, and shape it as best you can into a ball shaped loaf. Now sprinkle flour over it and under it and make sure it is not sticking to the work surface.
- Get a clean tea towel and flour it and place the dough onto the tea towel, seam side down (this is important as the dough will push out through these seams when its baking). Cover with the edges of the tea towel and leave for 1/2 hour to rise.
- Pre-heat the oven to 245degrees c for 30 mins. Put a heavy covered pot (Le Creuset works well) in the oven as it heats. Leave the dough rising while the oven heats and just before you put it in the oven sprinkle a little more flour on to the top of it. At the end of the 30mins pre-heating time, take the pot out of the oven and lift off the lid. Now lift up the dough with your hand underneath the towel and invert it as gently as you can, so that the dough drops off the towel into the pot seam side up . It may loose its shape a bit in the process, but thats ok.
- Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes at 200 degrees, until the loaf is beautifully browned.
Adapted from Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery, New York