Prior to discovering Jim Lahey, my journey through the somewhat complex world of bread-baking was missing guidance from a flour-dusted Captain Kirk. I had attempted to make challah bread in my boiling hot Lower East Side tuna can last winter, but ended up with a knobbly, doughy log. It was missing a “real” crust–which is as essential to bread as iron gated windows are essential to houses in South Los Angeles. (Sorry, just keeping it real here.) I was pretty bummed, naturally. Months later, I happened upon beautiful stecca loaves resting on wooden cutting boards at my friend Kristy’s apartment. I sampled, and loved, and sampled and loved some more. Then she revealed her secret. “I used Jim Lahey’s ‘no knead’ stecca recipe,” she told me, after I indulged her with hyperbolic comparisons to a master French baker. What does “no knead” mean exactly? “I barely had to do anything. I just mixed the dough, let it rise, roll it out into four loaves, and baked them.” More after the jump.
Naturally, I was like, yea right. And I supposedly got a 1400 on my SATs without years of SAT prep torture. Kristy’s a humble gal, after all. And my challah experience made me a Doubting Thomas.
But of course, I’m also a bread-lovah and knew I had to give this a try. A vision of four fantastically crusty loaves at the end of the rainbow was enough motivation to get my ass mixing. With tons of online literature about Jim Lahey’s “no knead” method to aid me through the process, I ended up with great looking- and smelling- and tasting- stecca. Some I dotted with garlic which added a nice roasted bite to the already satisfying bread. And while they still didn’t look like superstars, the loaves looked pretty good with sandwich fillings in ’em for lunch. If you’re a baking novice like I am, this “no knead’ no-fail bread, is totally worth a shot.
Jim Lahey’s “No Knead Stecca” recipe via Steamy Kitchen
Recipe from My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey. If you want to keep the baguettes plain, just skip the step of embedding the garlic, olives and cherry tomatoes.
3 cups (400 grams) bread flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon instant or other active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups (350 grams) cool 55-65F water
additional flour for dusting
20 pieces of the any combination of following: whole garlic cloves, whole olives, halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, table salt, sugar and yeast. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 10 to 18 hours (24 hours if you have a cold cold home.)
2. When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Fold the dough over itself to her three times and gently shape it into a somewhat flattened ball. Brush the surface of the dough with some of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the coarse salt (which will gradually dissolve on the surface).
3. Grab a large bowl (large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size. you could also use a large pot) and brush the insides of the bowl with olive oil. Gently place the dough, seam side down into the bowl. Cover bowl with a towel. Place in a warm draft free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
4. Half an hour before the end of the second rise, pre-heat the oven to 500F, with a rack in the center. Oil a 13″ x 18″ x 1″ baking sheet.
5. Cut the dough into quarters. Gently stretch each piece evenly into a long, thin, baguette shape approximately the length of the pan. Place on the pan, leaving about 1 inch between the loaves. Embed the garlic cloves, olives or cherry tomatoes into the loaves, about five pieces per loaf. Drizzle, tab or brush olive oil on each loaf. Sprinkle sea salt or kosher salt over each loaf, remember to go light on the olive loaf since the olives are salty.
6. Bake For 15 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Cool on a pan for five minutes, then use a spatula to transfer the baguette to a rack to cool thoroughly.
Note: The baguette may become a bit soggy in just a few hours because of the salt on the surface. If that happens, reheat the loaves in a hot oven until crisp.
– Diane Chang