Jan 05: Fast and Easy No-Knead Peasant Bread

This morning, a post from Brain Pickings came across my Facebook feed about a new book, What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets,” a fascinating project telling the global story of our relationship to food through portraits of 80 people from 30 countries and the food they eat in one day.” I noticed the many types of bread, so that became my theme for today.

Fast and Easy No-Knead Peasant Bread

Fast and Easy No-Knead Peasant Bread

The weather outside is, as my sainted mother would have said, “cold as fuck”.

OK. My mom wasn’t “sainted” and f-bombs would never have crossed her lips, but you catch my drift. Perhaps literally. Because that snow outside is blowing hard!

A bread baking is perfect for those CAF days!

I like to make bread. It’s really helpful (and often healthier) when you’re on a limited budget. However, I don’t like the time and energy the “normal” bread-making takes. Therefore, I have devoted my efforts to finding the easiest way to make homemade bread and, indeed, I think I may have found it!

For the last few years, I have been using the well-known No-Knead Bread Recipe by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery that appeared in The New York Times. I’ve found it a very “forgiving” recipe. I can use different mixtures of flour. I’ve added fruit, olives, caraway seeds, etc. and it almost always turns out perfectly. However, it takes up to 24 hours to go through the cycle — and sometimes I want or need my bread today.

Then I ran across this recipe for a No-Knead Peasant Bread, made a few adaptations, and am very happy with it.  So here’s my take.

KitchenAid 4.5 quart stainless steel mixing bowl

I always make two loaves at a time. For equipment, I use

Corningware 2.5 quart round casseroleAlso on hand:

The ingredients are simple. I use this amount for EACH mixing bowl.

  • 4 cups of flour (This time, I used 2 cups of a white/wheat/rye mixture and 2 cups of white).
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (could use less)
  • 2 teaspoons Quick-Rise yeast

Whisk all of these together well to distribute the flours, salt, sugar and yeast.

Now put the buckwheat u-shaped neck pillow in the microwave on high for about six minutes. Really!

  • Add 2 cups of lukewarm water (not hot!) to each mixing bowl. Stir with a spatula until the mixture is kind of gooey. If the dough is hard or the flour is not mixing completely, add more lukewarm water. Sometimes I end up adding about 1/4 to 1/2 cup per mixing bowl.

Cover each bowl with a plastic cover. Tuck the buckwheat pillow around the base(s) of the mixing bowl(s). Cover everything with the bath towel. Some people dampen the towel with hot water and ring it out, but I have never needed to.

Let the dough rise for at least one to two (1-2) hours, longer if you can. I usually try to leave it for at least three (3) hours.

When the first rise is done, turn the oven on for 450 degrees F. Liberally butter the interiors of the casserole dishes. Using the spatula, “scrape” the dough out of the mixing bowl(s) into the casserole dish(es). Cover with the plastic covers again (do not use lids as the dough may rise too high!) and put the towel on top. Wait 30 minutes for the second rise.

After about 30 minutes, your stove will be ready — as will the dough. Take the towel and plastic covers OFF!!!

Place the casseroles filled with the risen dough in the oven. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 375 F for an additional 15-30 minutes, depending upon the type of flour and extra ingredients used. Your bread should just drop out of the casserole dish. You might want to put the loaves on a bread rack to let them cool for a while…if you can resist the smell!!!

When I make two, I keep one for immediate use and put the other (cooled) loaf in a quart-size Ziploc bag and pop it in the freezer to use later!

I’ve used this recipe to make tons of delicious bread:

  • Olive and rosemary
  • Some rye flour (1 cup) and caraway seeds
  • Cardamom bread
  • Cinnamon pumpkin bread (where the pumpkin pie filling takes the place of some of the liquid).

An added plus: This method also makes for less cleanup than most bread-making recipes.

Play around with this recipe, if you’d like and let me know if you came up with a new “version”.

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