I’ve had a revelation and I can’t quite believe it. It goes against every single thing I’ve ever learnt about bread-making and I don’t understand it at all. Despite my being completely incapable of understanding why this works I felt I had to share it with you anyway because it’s completely revolutionised the way I make my bread – and while this may sound like rather a grandiose claim, it’s completely true. I have made this no-knead bread now with different yeasts and different flours – about nine times in total – because I had to make sure that this wasn’t just a fluke. “How could such an incredible result be possible?” I thought?
I’m hoping that by telling you this that I can motivate anyone who’s never got around to making their own bread (Kristy, I’m looking directly at you… no more excuses now!) into finally giving it a go, and for those of you who do make bread, then perhaps this can help speed up your weekly baking. For me, bread is one of the single most satisfying things that one can ever bake. The satisfaction, the joy, the sensory overload you get from touching the dough – feeling the soft elasticity beneath your fingers, shaping it, cutting it, baking it, and then smelling, cutting, and eating a freshly made, well-baked loaf of bread… it’s one of life’s simplest, but most profound pleasures.
So how did this revelation come about? Quite simply: I’m lazy. I was making bread using my regular recipe and I thought “enough!”. I knead the dough religiously for 10 – 15 minutes every time I make bread and while the flavour is good the crumb is close and air bubbles are small. The texture is often a little crumbly which annoys me intensely since I thought the whole point of kneading was to stretch the gluten molecules so you don’t get crumbly bread! I’d seen these “no-knead” recipes, which I’m sure many of you are familiar with, though many of them call for leaving the dough to prove for many, many hours – often overnight! I couldn’t possibly wait this long… I like to get my bread over and done with in a couple of hours so I just decided to stir in the water and then let it sit, covered, in the bowl for an hour.
It doubled in size – always a good sign, and an initial glance showed a fantastic collection of all manner of differently-sized air bubbles inside. Another good sign. I shaped it into a loaf and carefully deposited it into a tin. After letting it rise again I baked it and then allowed it to cool. It looked good, but the proof of the proverbial pudding is in the eating so it was not without some trepidation that I cut a slice.
The result shocked me. The first time I made this I remember staring into the loaf wondering how on earth it was possible. Why have I been told to knead bread all my life? The result of my no-knead bread was a springy, elastic crumb, pocked with differently sized air pockets (this is what I always look for in bread – I’m not a fan of close crumb). The whole batch had needed about 5 minutes of “manual” work, about two hours to rise and that was it, and I had an end product which was far and away the best darn bread I’d ever made – and it’s all because I’m lazy and couldn’t be bothered to knead, or to wait for the dough to prove overnight.
Pretty much every source I could find online said that no-knead bread has to be started around a day before you actually wish to bake it, so I’m really wondering… what gives? How come mine turns out great in the same amount of time that it takes to make regular kneaded bread? During one of my test bakes I actually did let it prove overnight because I wanted to see how different it would be. The result? Pretty much identical!
Lesson of the day, people: sometimes laziness actually does pay off! Given my results with this recipe, I urge you – go forth and make this bread! Let me know how it turns out, and if anyone knows why this works after less than a couple of hours and other recipes recommend waiting 12 or more then I’d love to know that too!
Two Hour No-Knead Bread
- 400g Plain Flour
- 300ml warm Water
- 8g dried Yeast (not quick-acting)
- 3tsps Sugar
- 1tsps Salt
- Start off by placing the yeast into a small bowl and pour about 50ml of the water gently on top. Set aside and allow the yeast to activate and froth up for about 15 minutes. Activating the yeast
- Mix the salt and sugar in with the flour and then make a well in the centre. Pour in the activated yeast and then the rest of the water and mix well until the flour is completely combined. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place to prove for about 60 minutes or so, until the dough has doubled in size.
- Grease and flour a loaf tin and then turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Dust the dough with a bit more flour and then fold over a few times. Form the dough into a block and press into the bottom of the tin. Make some deep cuts into the top of the loaf and sprinkle on some flour before setting aside in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes. Turn on your oven to preheat to 230 degrees Celsius.
- When the loaf has risen above the edges of the tin carefully place it into the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, according to how brown you like your crust, and until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Remove from the tin immediately after baking and allow to cool on a wire rack.