Whether you are intimidated by kneading homemade bread or just want to cut out a step, stir-together no-knead bread makes a tasty option.
With no-knead bread, the bottom crust will be thick and chewy like an artisanal bread at the bakery, while the inside will be soft and airy with irregular-shape holes similar to those in ciabatta.
Below is a fairly basic, five-ingredient white bread, but the long stand time creates a slightly tangy flavor. The flavor combined with the chewy bottom crust and loose-texture center makes the loaf more complex and special. Serve warm slices with olive oil for dipping as an accompaniment to soup. Or drizzle a slice with honey as a snack or toasted with butter for breakfast. This bread also makes a great sandwich. Stuff two slices with your favorite fillings, or make a panini by heating the stuffed bread slices in a sandwich press.
This dough takes just a few minutes. When you stir the water into the flour, salt, and yeast, a soft and very sticky dough will form. The water should be warm to the touch (120-130 degrees Fahrenheit, measure with an instant-read thermometer) but not hot. If the water is too hot, the yeast will become inactive and the bread won�t rise.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid, and let the dough stand at room temperature (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit) for 4 to 24 hours. This allows the flavor to develop and the yeast to activate, all while you do something else.
Tip: Let the bread rest in a quiet place, and don't be tempted to move it or touch it. During this stand time, air bubbles form in the dough that help develop structure.
-- Sprinkle a large piece of parchment paper or waxed paper with a generous coating of all-purpose flour.
-- Turn the dough out on top of the paper.
-- Sprinkle the top of the dough with an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons flour.
-- Use a large spatula to fold the dough over onto itself.
-- Sprinkle again with additional flour.
-- Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.
Note: As it sits, the sticky dough will absorb some of the flour, which will help create structure in the bread.
While the dough rests, grease the bottom and side of a Dutch oven or heavy pot with shortening or butter, and sprinkle yellow cornmeal over the bottom and 2 inches up the side. The cornmeal helps keep the bread from sticking to the pan and offers a pleasant crunch.
Very gently turn the dough into the prepared Dutch oven, using a spatula to help scrape the dough off the paper. Cover the Dutch oven with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise at room temperature until it has risen about 1 inch in the pan. This allows the yeast to develop the needed volume in the bread before baking.
Note: If your house is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, consider placing the bowl in an unheated oven with a large pan of hot water under the bowl on the oven�s lower rack.
Tip: To measure how much the dough rises, use a piece of masking tape to mark the dough level before rising and 1 inch above this point.
After rising, cover the Dutch oven with a lid or foil and bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 450 degree Fahrenheit oven. This bread bakes at a higher temperature than most loaves because it is protected by the heavy Dutch oven. Covering the pan for the first 30 minutes of baking protects the outside of the loaf from overbrowning while the inside cooks. The top crust will be golden brown, thinner than the bottom crust, and not very crisp.
Uncover the Dutch oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more or until golden brown. Remove the loaf from the Dutch oven right away after baking to prevent sticking and transfer it to a cooling rack. The rack allows air to circulate under the loaf, allowing the bottom crust to remain crisp after cooling.
Once the loaf is completely cool, it is ready to serve. Or wrap it in foil or plastic wrap or place it in a plastic bag. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 3 days.