Reading Seth’s interest in getting started with bread (see comments on my Friday post) got me thinking about the best first-time bread. I started with the no-knead recipe from Cook’s Illustrated and was really blown away by the look and taste. Plus you are required to drink beer for this recipe! Well, you could pour it down the drain after you take out a little for the recipe, but come on, is it Prohibition out there? Come on, who’s with me?!
Anyway. I’ve added the Cook’s Illustrated recipe to my photos section. But I will recommend some changes. First, if you don’t have a crock pot, don’t worry. Here’s what to do instead:
- Follow the recipe as written right up to the oven preheat stage.
- Put your pizza stone on the middle rack, and a cast iron skillet on the bottom. Preheat the oven for a full hour with these things in them. If your skillet is seasoned, it will smoke like hell. You can try using a plain aluminum (not non-stick!) baking pan. But I had steam blow pinholes out the side of my pan, so try to use something indestructible. Nobody said this wasn’t dangerous.
- A few minutes before you’re ready to put the bread in, boil 2 cups of water in the microwave.
- Your dough has been rising on parchment paper in a colander or frying pan. Lift it onto your pizza peel and dust the dough with flour and slit the top as indicated. If you don’t have a peel, use an upside-down cookie sheet. You want a big flat surface with no lip so you can slide the paper (with dough on top) onto the pizza stone in one quick movement.
- As soon as that dough is on the stone, pour the hot water into the skillet and shut the door. Be careful doing all of this! Hot steam and spattering water will go everywhere. This will be like the game Operation—if you pour water on your pizza stone, it will crack. But a cracked stone still works perfectly fine.
- Cook the bread straight through for about 45 minutes, then start checking the temperature. I would rotate the bread halfway through to make sure it’s baking evenly.
- When the temp reads 210, the bread is done. Take it out with your bare hands, you sissy.
- Empty the water out of your skillet or it will rust.
The end! Actually, it’s the beginning. Once you smell and taste your own bread, you will want to make more. The no-knead bread is really easy and incredibly rewarding. This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated and is copyrighted. Finally, if you want a really dark and hardcore crust, add a teaspoon of honey to the ingredients. I’ll be interested in hearing how this method works, as I haven’t tried it myself since I have a crockpot. But it should work. Trust me.