UPDATE: Having made this bread many many times now, there are a few things I have noticed. The original published recipe creates a dough that’s just a little too wet and salty for my liking. Instead, I measure by weight and use the following ratio:
Dylan’s Bread ratio:
15 oz bread flour
12 oz warm water
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp of active dry yeast
Try and have your dutch oven in the middle of your oven. If the oven rack is too low, the bottom will be a bit warmer than the 450 and will blacken a bit. I’ve done this a couple of times be accident and thought that we would have to cut off the bottom crust. Not so. It was still pretty darn good, though it didn’t look as pretty.
Lastly, I’ve tried sprucing this up a bit with flax meal, or whole wheat flour or whatnot. The problem is that this bread is so good in it’s basic form, that variations tend to diminish it. In general, for other flours, substitute between about 3 and 5 oz of flour for another type of grain meal and it should work out O.K.
Apparently the internet is all abuzz about this bread recipe, published in the New York Times food section. My father, constantly in search of food-based knowledge to impress me with, brought the recipe to my attention, and then tried to execute it while I was recently visiting him in New York. The results were not what he expected, but I’ll get to that later.
Firstly, as stated in the name of the recipe, there is no-kneading involved in the making of this bread. I know what you’re thinking. “Whaaaaaaa????” Yeah, me too. For those who have never made bread before, or have made it only once and gave up because it was a pain in the ass, this seems like a very attractive notion. For those who have made bread a fair bit, this seems a bit strange. How can impart the crumb with the appropriate texture, how can the bread achieve the structure it needs, without a bit of elbow grease, or at least the dough hook on a kitchenaid? The answer is has to do with the science of gluten and how crossbridges are formed and broken, and I will go into it more at a later date because it’s actually pretty interesting. For now though, I’ll just say this, the key is to make a fairly wet dough with very little yeast and then let it rest and rise for a very long time.
The second important thing to know about this recipe, is that it uses a dutch oven. Baker’s ovens are much better at trapping moisture than home ovens. Steam in the oven is part of what makes bread crusty. Also, contact heat from baking stones, or a really heavy pan can do the trick. The dutch oven, particularly if it’s enameled cast iron, can do both. The Dutch oven is preheated and therefore serves the same purpose the baking stone. The lid of the dutch oven traps the moisture that leaves the loaf as steam surrounding it, and gives the bread an incredible crust.
So, with that in mind, the recipe is as follows.
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups flour
1 5/8 cups warm water
Throw everything in a large bowl and stir it together to mix. It will form a wet dough. Mix it enough to make it more or less evenly textured, but don’t worry about it to much. It should look something like this:
Cover it and let it it rest for 18-24 hours. Yes, overnight. It will get little bubbles in it, and when you check it, may look a little fallen. Something like this:
Then, take it out of the bowl and put it on a lightly floured surface. Flour your hands and form it into a round loaf and rest between two floured sheets of wax paper (sprinkling some bran flakes on the loaf and helps prevet it from sticking to the paper). Let the round rest for about an hour and a half, then preheat the oven to 450 degree for about half an hour, with a dutch oven inside. Take the dutch over out, flip the dough into it, cover and put it back in the oven. After half an hour, take the top off to let the crust brown. After another 15 minutes, take the loaf out of the oven and let it cool for about 30 minutes before cutting.
It’s really good.