There's nothing like freshly baked bread, straight out of the oven. Golden-round, with a flour white crust, few things look more appealing or make my taste buds tingle like the anticipation of a home made loaf. Yes, I am a self decalred 'amant de pain'. But sadly, there are no petit French bakeries in Barbados (see note below). And the long process of kneading and proving and waiting and kneading is just too tedious for me to bear on a regular basis.
So when I came across a recipe for no kneed bread, I tried it straight away. And I was amazed with the results. The loaf was one of the best I had ever tasted. It had a crisp crust and a slightly chewy, sourdough consistency. It was like something from a patisserie. Perfect warm with salted butter and apricot jam or toasted and topped with goats cheese and roasted tomatoes, or smashed pea, feta and mint.
But I'd done virtually nothing. There had been no sweat inducing kneading, stretching or slamming of dough. All I'd done is popped a few ingredients in a bowl, given it a mix and left it to do it's thing. Over the next few weeks I tried the recipe again and again and each time, much to my family's delight, it was perfect. Since then, everyone I've baked this bread for (including children) has asked me for the recipe! So here, in response to overwhelming demand, it is.
No kneed artisan bread
Large mixing bowl
Silicone bread scraper (optional)
Cling film or tea towel/muslin cloth
Heavy round cast iron Le Creuset or similar pot with a lid (a glass or stainless steel pot with lid or even a tin foil cover should work just as well)
(I use American measuring cups for this recipe as it makes things even quicker and easier)
3 cups white flour (preferably organic, strong bread flour, but any plain white flour will do)
6 grams instant yeast (I don't measure - I just use roughly half of an 11 gram pack)
1 teaspoon ground sea salt (preferably maldon)
10 -12 oz warm (not tepid) water (you want the mix to be sticky but not too wet)
Measure the flour into the bowl.
Add the yeast and salt to the flour.
Fill your measuring jug with water. I usually boil the kettle and and mix roughly 3-4 oz boiled water to 8oz cold in my jug to make sure the water is warm enough. Dip your finger in - it should feel quite warm but not hot.
Pour the warm water onto the flour, yeast and salt.
Mix with a balloon whisk until the dough forms a sticky ball. Don't over mix - just make sure that all the flour is mixed in. The mixture should be fairly sticky and wet.
Cover (with cling film or a tea towel/ muslin) and leave for as long as possible.
When I started making this bread, I would make the mix before bed, leave it overnight (around 8-9 hours) and bake in the morning. But I've realised that, as we live in (hot and humid) Barbados, I only need to leave it for a few of hours.
If you live in a temperate climate - and it's not summer - I suggest that you try leaving it 8-9 hours overnight (you can leave this for up to 12-15 hours) to start - possibly in an airing cupboard if your kitchen is very cool. Mine is always around 30 degrees. Hence my reluctance to knead.
Your mixture should (after three or twelve hours) rise and fill up with bubbles. Take a peek after a few hours to see how it's getting on. It should look like the picture below. When it's at this stage, turn your oven on to 230 degrees celsius (450 fahrenheit) and put your empty cast iron lidded pot inside.
Gently scrape the sides of the bowl and remove the dough carefully, aiming to keep the mixture full of air.
Lightly place the dough on a floured surface, turn it over and tuck the edges under to form a rough ball like the picture. This way, the top will be floured and it will be starting to look like a french boule loaf.
Cover with a tea towel or muslin and leave on your work surface for around 30 minutes. By then your pot should be searing hot.
Remove your (very hot) pot from the oven.
And carefully put your round loaf inside. Put the lid back on and place the pot back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
Your kitchen will be filled with the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread and after 30 minutes it should be golden on top and sound hollow when tapped. If it's not as golden as you'd like, pop it back in the oven with the lid off for another 5 or 10 minutes. And wait a (short) while for it to cool.
There you have it. No kneading. No fuss. No bread maker. No trip to the shops. Cheap as a few scoops of flour. Just slice. Spread. Bite. And enjoy!