When I first mentioned to a friend that I’d really like to start baking bread, he offered up his mother’s bread recipe that he claimed was so easy, required no-kneading and worked every time. So I gave it a try. And here is what I did:
Why bake in the heated pot?
I have read that cooking in a vessel, rather than the open oven, traps the steam in during baking and results in a crispier crust. This seems to be true. The crust on this loaf had a satisfying chewy crunch, while the crumb of the bread was soft and airy.
Why make the slashes in the top?
When the bread gets into the hot oven it will seem to bloom as it grows suddenly bigger. This is called oven spring. The slashes give it somewhere to expand.
Why all purpose flour and not bread flour?
I’m a little uncertain on this, but here’s what I think right now. Bread flour creates a more dense bread than all purpose flour. Since this bread is a no-knead recipe, using all purpose (or AP) flour allows it to create the bubbles in the dough and be a lighter, fluffier bread crumb.
What follows is the original recipe as given to me and my notes (in bold italic):
A basic white bread recipe.
- 3 cups luke warm water
- 1 1/2 tbsp yeast
- 6 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 4 tsp salt
Prepare yeast in water (3 to 5 minutes), and then add the flour, and then the salt.
As soon as it’s thoroughly mixed, set aside to rise until double (about twenty minutes).
This took longer than 20 minutes to rise. I ended up putting it in the oven with the light on and door closed and a towel over the covered container for an additional 30 minutes to get the double. It’s more important to let it double than to follow the time.
Make 3 or 4 balls (You can bake all at once, or keep the dough in the fridge and do a loaf at time. I think my mom keeps in fridge several days sometimes.)
I only took 1/3 of the dough and saved the rest to form and bake on another day. It worked.
Put loaves on a pan, sprinkle with flour, and make three slashes across the top with a knife.
I baked my loaf in a preheated lidded cast iron pot.
Put a cup of water in a separate pan, and put in oven during baking.
I didn’t do this because of baking it in a pot.
Bake 15 minutes, and then remove from pan and place directly on baking stone (if you have one) for another 15 minutes; otherwise, bake on pan for the full 30 minutes. I’ve done it both ways.
I baked the full 30 minutes in the pot. Then I opened the lid and baked an additional 10 with the lid off to darken the golden brown of the crust.