Bread. I absolutely adore the stuff. I would happily live off of crusty bread and butter. [I remember hearing from a childhood friend that if you went to prison you had to live off bread and butter. I didn’t see what was so bad about that!]
A couple of years back I was chatting about cake with my father-in-law and he asked me whether I was as versed with bread as I was with cake. The question stopped me in my tracks. No. I wasn’t, and I’m still not. But why not? It’s made of flour and baked in the oven, so you’d think we would have had a few run-ins. And yet making bread petrifies me.
Here’s why: making bread is a major investment in time and effort. You mix it, knead it and wait. Then you knead it again and wait. And then you bake. All-in this process can take you several hours and you likely won’t know whether you’ve made a masterpiece or a hard chunk of spongy flour until the very end. It’s devastating. And it has happened to me SO. MANY. TIMES.
When it comes to bread I’m more failure than success and it’s knocked my bread-making confidence to no end.
But a few things have changed that recently. The first was pretty random, but nonetheless inspiring. Poppy got a lovely book for her birthday from some close friends called ‘Rosie Revere Engineer’ and in it there’s a passage about failure:
“You did it! Hooray! It’s the perfect first try!
This great flop is over, It’s time for the next!”
(Rosie Revere Engineer, Andrea Beaty)
I loved this message and was too glad to talk to Poppy about it. And the theme played on my mind for several days after reading (and re-reading and re-reading) the book.
Secondly, I’d been re-organising and cleaning up my Pinterest boards and saw that I’d pinned a recipe for no-knead bread a while back. I think this may have been in reaction to my mom talking about a similar recipe she’d been using. Seeing that pin spurred me on to google the term [‘no-knead bread’] again and that’s how I found the recipe. It’s from the New York Times Cooking website and is the first result that comes up. Remember how I said you should look for recipes that have several positive reviews? Well this recipe has been reviewed 1662 times and it has 5 stars. Say no more!
So I had a go. It went well. I took photos because the loaf was so beautiful. It was golden brown, it was crusty, it was delicious!
And so I made it again. Same results. Holy cr*p. More photos of my beautiful bread. [I think at this point my children were becoming jealous because I was taking far more photos of my bread than of them.]
And so on. I think I’ve made the recipe about 6 times so far. It’s a freaking revelation. If I need bread to feed my family…I CAN MAKE IT!!! So I do. 🙂
A few caveats before you rush off and have a go yourself (which I urge you to do):
- Where you save on effort and disasters with this recipe, you have to sacrifice time. It takes quite a long time for the dough to be ready (about 21 hrs in total). But you have hardly any role to play during those hours. It just means you need to plan ahead. And be good at math(s).
- You will need a cast-iron casserole dish. I use my little Le Creuset, but any small/medium size enamel cast-iron will do.
- The only point at which I’ve floundered in the whole process is the stage at which you have to transfer the bread from the tea towel to the dish. The dough is sitting on a vast amount of flour to stop it sticking to the tea towel, so if you flip the dough into the casserole you’re left with an almighty mess and a very floury loaf. If you skimp on the flour, the dough sticks to the tea towel. If you try to lift the dough into the dish it kind of gets messy (quite a wet, sticky dough). I’ve not yet figured it out yet. On balance the method that is least troublesome is the floury loaf/messy kitchen one. But still not ideal.
Ces’t tout! Here’s the link to the recipe. Do try – I know this is obvious, but I’m so flabbergasted that you can make bread of this quality in your own home. Revelation.