I was a bit slow this past week in reviewing a new cookbook, but Jim Lahey’s My Bread kept me busy with baking rather than reviewing. I tried several of the book’s variations mostly with success and with one failure. The loaf featuring cranberries and walnuts pictured here worked out perfectly though; it was airy, light, crusty, and slightly cinnamon-y. It would be perfect for thanksgiving leftovers when turkey sandwiches abound.
There are endless variations of Lahey’s no-knead method in his first cookbook making it a real treat for anyone who loves the simple no knead method but craves a bit more in terms of flavor and expansion of the technique. Lahey’s recipe for artisan quality bread, originally published in 2006 by Mark Bittman, uses time rather than hands do the kneading. It literally took the home baker by storm. Thus, the first section of Lahey’s book is dedicated to an in depth review, with beautiful illustrative images, of the original recipe for his signature holey, light, and glorious bread. Even a new no knead bread-er could jump right in with Lahey’s introduction.
Lahey takes the no knead bread in new directions here too: with dried fruits, with freshly squeezed juices, beer, and with shapes and forms that still harness the heat and humidity of a covered cast iron pot to create a successful bread at home. He evens dedicates time to sandwich fillings such as roasted ham and artichoke confit, all inspired his Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. It is safe to say that I wish I owned this book instead of just library-ing it.
My one failure occurred with the carrot and currant loaf that I had such high hopes for. The idea of using carrot juice drew me in the moment I read the recipe. Carrot juice instead of water? Genius! It worked for Martha Stewart too (clearly I must have made a mistake because Martha controls the culinary world with perfection.) My tinkering with the original recipe may have caused the failure. I swapped dates for the currants which seemed to inhibit the dough from rising. I can’t be sure yet what went wrong but I’d try it again to see if I could make it work. I may have simply added too little yeast.
I decided to blog about the cranberry and walnut version because it is a simple variation, making it a good recipe for both novices and no knead aficionados alike. This could be your very first no knead loaf or your 100th; you will still love the end result. Brian and I both mix up the regular bread several times a week to make sandwiches and to eat for breakfast. Toasted bread with jam is the ultimate breakfast We found the addition of dried fruit and nuts made a big difference. I’m thinking of baking a few boules of this recipe the night before we drive to upstate new york for thanksgiving as a gift for his family. I love gifting no knead bread because it always incites such awe (when in reality, it is a deceptively simple recipe.)
NOTE: Lahey provides ingredients in both weight and volume. I must admit that I do not weigh my flour. I know I should but I have found success with just careful scooping and really getting to know what dough should look like. So I provided the volume measure here.
Cranberry and Walnut No Knead Bread
From My Bread
3 cups bread flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon yeast
pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups of water (at around 55-65 degrees)
cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting
supplies: 6-8 quart oven proof covered pot
1. Mix the flour, cranberries, walnuts, salt, cinnamon, yeast, and pepper in large plastic mixing bowl. Remember the bread with double in size so accommodate for expansion when picking the bowl.
2. Add the water and mix either with hand or a wooden spoon until a shaggy ball of dough forms. If needed, add a bit more water or flour. It will not be a perfect ball of smooth dough though. It will be tacky and sticky but it should come together quickly in about 5 minutes.
3. Let the dough rise for 12-18 hours in a warm place, covered with plastic wrap or a non-terry cloth tea towel. It will be wet and porous after this first rise. It should more than double in size as well.
4. After the first rise dust a work surface with flour and plop the dough down. Gently and drying not to degas and deflate the dough shape into a ball by folding the sides into the middle.
5. Spread a tea towel down and dust with cornmeal or wheat bran. Place the folded seam side down on the towel. Dust the top with more cornmeal or wheat bran. Fold the towel over to cover the ball of dough.
6. Let the dough rise for 2 hours in a warm location.
7. A half hour before the dough will have completed the second rise preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place an oven proof 6-8 quart covered pot into the oven to preheat as well.
8. When ready carefully open the heated pot. Use the towel to plop the dough, seam side up, into the pot. I just sort of unroll the towel and the dough naturally falls.
9. Cover and bake. However, the baking of no knead dough varies for me. Here is my advice: Basically, you want to bake the bread for set of time covered and then you want to uncover to bake again to ensure browning of the crust. Lahey suggests 30 minutes for the first period and another 15-20 for the next period. I have had success with baking for 15 minutes, uncovering, and then baking for another 15 until the internal temperature is 200 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer to check doneness you want the bread to be browned and hollow sounding when tapped. You will also hear little crackles when the bread is close to your ear. I would recommend baking covered for 15 minutes and then checking to see if the bread looks done but not browned. If it looks almost ready I’d take the cover off and bake another 15-20 minutes. If the bread is still doughy after the first 15 minutes continue baking for another 15 minutes covered to complete the full 30 minutes recommended by Lahey, and then remove the cover and bake until the bread is browned, 15 minutes more.