Home baked bread

Bread fresh from the oven

Bread fresh from the oven. Photo © Jacqui Newling

With our current focus on bread baking, it seemed fitting to include a recipe to make bread in our modern kitchens that uses a traditional technique – and this is the best one I’ve found yet. Good recipes that really work find themselves being recommended and passed on to others. I have Real Food Projects’ Kate Walsh to thank for endorsing this recipe, which is based on New York Times Mark Bittman’s ‘No-knead bread’ recipe, which he gleaned from Jim Lahey from the Sullivan Street Bakery and  published in the New York Times last year. The original article and recipe are on the NYT website (with some other, short-cut bread recipes) and there is a youtube video of the bread being made which you may find useful before embarking on making your own, especially if this is your first foray into domestic bread making.

This is my version, working with ingredients I had on hand, and easy to find in our supermarkets. It is a two-day process, but most of the time is taken up leaving the bread dough to prove, so its not hard work. There are ‘speedy’ and ‘fast’ alternatives on the NYT link, but neither worked as well as this one, nor were they as satisfying to make.

Dutch oven-baked bread

Ingredients

  • 2 cups bread flour or 00 flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated yeast
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup whole or instant oats

Note

I like to get started on this recipe on a Friday evening, so we can enjoy freshly baked bread on Saturday and hand-cut slices of toast with breakfast on Sunday. 00 flour, sometimes sold as pizza flour, can be found at European delicatessens and larger supermarkets. It has a higher gluten content and makes a more robust loaf.

Directions

Bread dough, after first proving
Combine flours, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 400 millilitres of warm water and stir until blended. The dough will be sticky and ‘shaggy’. Cover the bowl in cling wrap and allow dough to prove for at least 12 hours at room temperature. The dough will swell in size and is ready when little bubbles appear on the surface.
Bread dough
Lightly flour a large wooden board or work surface, place dough onto it and sprinkle lightly with more flour, so your hands don’t stick to the dough. Fold the dough over on itself, turn it 90 degrees and fold it over again. Return it to the bowl, cover and rest for 15–20 minutes.
Bread dough
Line a large shallow bowl with a clean tea towel. Crumble the oats into a rough meal or powder in a mortar and pestle or by rubbing them in small batches between your hands. Scatter half the oats onto the tea towel to coat about 20–30 cm of the towel. With floured hands, remove the dough from the proving bowl and quickly form into a round ball. Turn the dough onto the tea towel, ‘seam’ or rough side down. Dust the surface with more oatmeal, cover with another cloth and let it rest a further 2 hours. The dough will expand further, and will resist springing back when poked with your finger.
Bread dough, ready to bake
Meanwhile, an hour and a half after leaving the dough to rest in the cloth, place a deep enamelled cast-iron 'Dutch oven' or lidded casserole into the oven. Set the oven to 200°C, to preheat in time for the dough to be ready. Using heavy quality oven mitts, remove the pot from the oven and place on a heatproof surface. Uncover the dough, and slide your hand under the dough-filled tea towel, and lift carefully, allowing any excess oatmeal to fall away from the cloth (see next step).

Quickly upturn the dough into the heated pot (the excess oatmeal will fly everywhere and make a big mess if you skipped the previous step). Using oven gloves, shake the pot to centre the dough – don't worry if it doesn’t look too neat, as it will shape itself as it cooks.
Bread, before final baking stage.
Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Using oven gloves, remove lid and continue to bake for another 20–30 minutes, until the loaf is browned on top and sounds hollow when you tap it.
Fresh from the oven
Carefully remove from the pot and cool on a rack before slicing.
  • Hannah Gordon

    Dear Cook and Curator

    The historical insight into bread making and oven design was both informative and inspiring. Must watch combustibles in kitchen, didn’t realise flour was so reactive.

    I have been making bread for 25 years now and it is refreshing to read your no need to knead recipe. My starter is 23 years young and has performed in rigorously and gently kneaded loaves. It is definitely worth nurturing the humble loaf!

    If I may add a tip it would be to lightly sprinkle a bit of water or spray dough with an atomiser just before baking it in the oven. Keeping a lid on the dutch oven whilst cooking has a similar effect.

    Floury Thanks
    Hannah Gordon

    • The Cook

      HI Hannah, a 23 year old starter is most impressive! thanks for the tip – Im sure many of our readers will find it useful.
      Using the lid on the Dutch oven does seem to keep the loaf from drying out, and for the final 15 minutes with lid off I turn off the fan which meant the crust doesn’t harden too much.
      For my latest loaf I used 50/50 ’00’ flour and wholemeal – it produced a denser crumb but lovely flavour – how’s everyone else in bakery mode doing with this recipe?