Back in 2006, Mark Bittman, the food editor at the NY Times, published an article
describing a clever method developed by Jim Lahey for baking incredible tasting French bread in a Dutch oven pot that didn't require any kneading at all. None. He later went on to publish a whole series of cookbooks, all wonderfully comprehensive and very modestly titled. Here are a few examples: The Food Matters Cookbook, How To Cook Everything, How To Cook Everything Vegetarian and more.You get the idea. Every one a delight to read, clear and simple. The idea was so simple and yet produced the most incredible bread! Not only that, it seemed to go in the face of everything we had learned about bread making. Long, slow rises, wet dough and NO KNEADING at all. The reaction was instantaneous. Luminaries in the bread world started experimenting with this method and publishing their own variations. For instance, Peter Reinhart, in his now classic, The Bread Baker's Apprentice champions this method extensively. And again in his later book Whole Grains Breads. Nancy Baggett has produced a whole cookbook dedicated to baking using this method (or rather, her variation of the original) in her great book Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads. This recipe is my take on a recipe from her book. It is so simple, and the best part, is that you can delay the baking with the looong rises, so that it fits your schedule. Try it. I am sure you'll love it.
Here's What You'll Need:
6 1/2 cups AP flour (or bread flour)
3 1/2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs salt
1 tsp dry yeast
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 3/4 cups ice water (yes, that's right - ice water)
Here's What You'll Need to Do:
1. Use a very large bowl because the dough will have to practically quadruple its volume. In this bowl combine the dry ingredients - the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. In a separate bowl (or measuring cup) mix the oil and water together as much as possible. Then place ice cubes in the cup to chill the water.
2. Finally, make a well in the dry ingredients, and add 2 3/4 cups ice water to the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon to form a dough that is evenly mixed. DO NOT KNEAD.
3. Form the dough into a rough boule, then spray lightly with spray oil. Cover with plastic (I placed mine in a plastic bag) and let it stand, at room temperature, for 3-10 hours (not a typo).
4. Place the still-covered dough in the refrigerator to rise slowly for 10-15 hours (overnight, basically).
5. The next day, divide the dough into 2 equal parts, and place it into two 9 in (23 cm) loaf pans. Let the dough rise, at room temperature and covered, until it reaches about 1/2 in (3 mm) above the rim of the pan.
6. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425 F (210 C). Place the bread in the oven, and reduce the temperature to 400 F (200 C). Bake for about 45 minutes until the bread is browned nicely and crisp. Cool on a rack completely before slicing.