When I was a little girl, I liked nothing better than walking home from school and smelling the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting from my home. My mother baked our family's bread weekly and there was always a warm slice slathered with butter and honey waiting for us after school. My mother baked fluffy white loaves in shiny aluminum loaf pans. My bread baking tends to lean toward free-form crackly, dark brown crusted artisan style loaves that sound hollow when thumped on the bottom of the loaf.
Artisan loaves are very different than the fluffy white bread of my childhood. The crumb should be moist and the holes big and custard-y with a slight shine, just like the air pockets in this loaf.
This slice needs no adornment but I did slather a little butter and some jam on mine (for old times sake)! In part, those wonderful childhood memories are why I love bread baking so much. Especially this time of year when it's so cold outside.
When the girls lived at home I baked big loaves, usually on my pizza stone. An unglazed terra cotta ceramic tile that has been washed works fine if you don't have a pizza stone. Today I tried a different method; baking my bread in my Le Creuset cast iron oven. It was not much different than the bread baked on the stone. I did however learn something. I had read that the ceramic knobs on the lids of Dutch ovens would not stand up to the 500 degrees F temperature that I preheat my oven. The solution is a stainless steel knob sold by Le Creuset that replaces their standard ceramic knob. Six years ago, anticipating baking bread in my Dutch oven, I purchased a stainless steel knob but never got around to replacing my original knob or baking bread in the Dutch oven. I had read that wrapping aluminum foil around the original knob would protect it from cracking in high heat so I gave the foil wrap a try first. It didn't work. You can see my that the ceramic knob cracked so I located and unwrapped the knob I purchased six years ago.
I'll replace the cracked knob as soon as I scrub off the baked-on brown bits that didn't show before baking in the 500 degree oven. And I thought the casserole was clean! I'm off to SCRUB! And then I think I'll reward myself with another slice of bread.
Let me know how you like this recipe if you should decide to give it a try.
No Knead Whole Wheat/White Artisan Bread
Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.
3 cups lukewarm water
2 tablespoons yeast (for high altitudes see * below)
1 rounded tablespoon kosher or other coarse salt
4-1/2 cups un-sifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
2 cups whole wheat flour, measured the same as the white flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel or parchment paper for a baking vessel
*For high altitudes: Decrease the yeast to 2 teaspoons.
Mixing and Storing the Dough:
In a stand mixer or a re-sealable lidded (not airtight) plastic food container add warm water (100 degrees), yeast, salt and flour.
Attach dough hook or use wooden spoon and incorporate all ingredients. Do not knead.
Option one: Allow dough to sit on counter 2 hours, then refrigerate for 5 additional hours and use.
Option two: refrigerate immediately and use dough the next day.
Store the dough in the refrigerator in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 7 days: You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. This maturation continues over the 7-day storage period. Refrigerate unused dough in a lidded storage container (again, not airtight). Cut off and shape more loaves as you need them. The dough can also be frozen in 1 pound portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.
On Baking Day:
Prepare the pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal. Cut a piece of parchment paper twice the size of the bottom of the baking vessel.
Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up the dough and cut off a 1- pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife or kitchen shears.
Shape the loaf, do not knead. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter–turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. This should take 30 to 60 seconds. The bottom of the loaf will not be beautiful, but the top should be smooth.
Rest the loaf on the pizza peel or parchment paper and let it rise for 40 minutes. You may not see a significant amount of change in the loaf but the loaf will continue to grow in the oven. If using a vessel, the parchment paper facilitates ease in lifting the dough into the vessel after the rise.
Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray below on another rack. If using a vessel, put it into the oven and heat to 500 degrees F.
Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour (this allows the knife to cut more easily through the dough), and using a serrated bread knife, slash a 1/4-inch deep cross, scallop or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top. The loaf will crack if you don't slash it to let the steam out while baking.
If baking on a stone, fill a measuring cup with a cup of hot water and set it by the oven. Place the loaf in the oven by sliding it off the pizza peel onto the preheated baking stone. Quickly, but carefully, pour the hot water into the broiler tray and close the door. Set timer for 25 to 30 minutes. You are cooking with steam for at least the first 10 to 15 minutes of the baking process. This will help to form the hard, crackling crust of artisan bread that we’re familiar with. Remove loaf with pizza peel and let cool on a wire rack before cutting.
If baking in a vessel, pick up the edges of the parchment paper and set it into the vessel with the dough on top of the paper. Put the lid on the vessel and bake for 40 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 450 degrees F, slide the parchment out from under the loaf so the bottom can crisp up and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes without the lid. Remove the loaf to a wire rack to cool before cutting.
An instant read thermometer should read 195 to 200 degrees F when stuck into the middle of the loaf.
Tip: To achieve a sour dough-like taste, hold over some of the dough from batch to batch and mix it with your new recipe of dough.