It was almost too easy and the thing they don't tell you is that it is so cheap to make. Usually the biggest cost of a loaf of bread that you stir up at home is the yeast, but with this recipe you only use 1/4 teaspoon and the thing rises like crazy. All it takes is time. For a cook on a budget that means something. Just wanted to point that out.
I've read some great blogs that tell you that you need a cast iron dutch oven for the bread to work best. They can cost from just over $ 50 to a little under $ 200. More than I wanted to spend. Then I remembered that I had a clay/ceramic casserole dish that I had bought for about 10 dollars and had been using for the dogs and cats water bowl. It was not nearly as heavy as cast iron and decidedly cheaper. So I found the dog another water dish and washed it up, ran it thru the dishwasher, and I found that it worked way better as a bread pan than I had ever anticipated.
I mix the dough up in the casserole dish and then cover it up with saran wrap and put the top back on. That protects it from the a fore mentioned kitties and allows it to rise nicely.
The first time I made it I worried thru every stage of the process. It doesn't seem to matter. As long as it gets to a fairly uniform consistency and evenly moist it seems to take care of itself. In a way it teaches you to have faith.
The first time I tried it I made it with bread flour and it was really great, it had this wonderful crusty texture and made perfect toast. Then I decided that I needed to make the bread healthier so I made the whole wheat version, substituting 1/2 c. bread flour for 1/2 c. whole wheat flour. The bread was even better.
I don't admire large holes in bread and the texture of the bread became the even texture that I was hoping for and the crust if possible was better than the first loaf. I found out later that the use of the whole wheat flour improved the gluten content of the bread and helped it because the bran fibers that usually cut the fibers on kneaded bread flourish in the no knead variety. So time and yeast work their magic.
I had intended to post a picture of a finished loaf but the one in the bowl above was eaten. Maybe another day.
From NYT's Dining & Wine Section, November 8, 2006
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
1 In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2 Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3 Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4 At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
The whole or while whole wheat/rye option is next!