Carl and I are like Will and Alicia. If that rings a bell, sit down and talk to me in hushed tones, away from anyone we might know. If that doesn't, you probably don't have a television. You probably don't know what shame is, what it feels like, like those children who are able to touch live burners or molten metals, welding tools, all filmed by '20/20' for a later broadcast.
We have a torrid, stupid love. I look at him with awe - how could I have known what joy he'd bring into my tepid life? How could I have prepared myself for the sight of him, every morning? I've started wearing mascara. I think he notices, and responds accordingly. RISE UP AND SALUTE, SOLDIER.
All anyone wants is to make a nice loaf of bread. That, start a fire, go back in time. Basics. That is why I own TARTINE's bread book, which both inspires and defeats me every time I open it. Have you read that book? Would you like to make a loaf of their bread? Get ready for a nine month gestation period. I respect their product, love their recipes, but do not have that kind of faith in myself. There had to be a way, to produce a loaf like that without all the self-imposed pressure to live up to that glorious cover photo. Because we've reached the point, in our Wild Yeast Migration, the Capital-R Relationship with Fermentation, where we can go on dates. Collaborate. Like Elton and Kiki Dee.
So Carl and I decided to start with an adaptation of the infamous NKB, leavened with sourdough and ten times better than the best loaf of traditional No-Knead bread I've ever made - the sourdough starter, a scant 1/4 cup of it, stands in for the 1/4 teaspoon of yeast and a little extra flour buffers the extra moisture. But the sourdough-leavened loaves that emerge from the oven are darker, crisper, lighter, with membrane-thin crusts that shatter if your thumbs press too hard. The taste is just sour enough for my liking, complex, with that acidic tang if you dampen crumbs between tongue and cheek. The dough inflates with bubbles, holes, little pockets of air that leave slick, laminated caverns behind. I am enamored with this bread.
Not only does the bread have a muddled genetic resemblance to its aristocratic cover model cousin, it has a nice track record. I've baked three loaves in the past week, and each one has turned out in stunning fashion - the one above is a half-recipe, which makes a mini loaf I can finish in one day, about the size of an enlarged Ciabatta bun with a gland problem. I used the other half of that batch to make pizza, which we'll talk about in mere years, or within the next week. After Carl and I stop grinding to this.
The recipe below is crude, yet detailed. Flour, water, salt, starter. Not only does the sourdough turn out a prettier loaf, it allows for forgiveness, happy to eat up your mistakes. I used a scale to measure out the flour, and I love it, but I don't think you have to have one for this recipe. Breadtopia has volumes of knowledge, info and videos on the subject, so please check him out if you're into the idea of learning from someone who actually knows something.
How to make Really Great, Really Wonderful No-Knead Sourdough Bread
Flour, Bread or All-Purpose (I use AP)
Mature Sourdough starter (meaning it rises and falls reliably after feeding and has been 'active' for at least a week or two)
Cornmeal or Semolina for dusting
Weigh out 16 ounces, or 3 1/2 cups of flour, in a large glass, ceramic or other, non-metal bowl.
Fill a measuring cup with 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of room-temperature water. If your tap water is heavily chlorinated, use cool but recently-boiled water from a kettle, or simply let your water stand for awhile to let the chlorine evaporate.
Measure out 1/4 cup of your ripe starter, and add it to the water. Stir to combine and dissolve the starter, then pour into the bowl. Add 1 teaspoon fine salt, and mix together until a shaggy dough forms - keep stirring in large, slow strokes until the flour is combined, adding more water by the Tablespoon (up to three) if you feel you need to, just until the dough absorbs the flour. I learned from Breadtopia that doughs slacken as the flour absorbs the water and your starter, depending on the viscosity and hydration-level (If you feed it equal parts water/flour, it is 100% hydrated. Mine is around 75% hydration) will provide some moisture as well.
Once the dough is mixed, cover with a piece of cling and then a dishtowel. Leave out on your counter for 12-24 hours. I usually let it go for 14. When you uncover it the next morning, or at three in the morning if you're really into that sort of thing, it will be a bowl of bubbling, shaggy moist dough.
Now it is time to harness your inner warrior. Just go for it. Use a scraper or spatula to coax the dough out of the bowl and onto a well-floured (I use a bit of cornmeal, too) surface, trying to keep as much of the delicate structure and as many of the bubbles intact as possible. Then fold the sides of your lazy, pale friend in on-itself, like a present, like a hug using all limbs. Gently push them in, and slowly gather the ball together, turning it over so it is seam-side down, if you're feeling up for it. And you are. Dust the loaf lightly with more flour or cornmeal, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and give it a nice long rise - about 90 minutes, turning your oven on (450F) and sliding in your dutch oven, or empty cardboard NIKE box, to heat after the first 30, for an hour total.
Transferring this dough, from the counter to the pot, is easy for me and for you too, if you just DO it. Using a bench scraper, give a confident stroke underneath the dough and lift it, cradling it in one hand and plop it into your pot - upside down if you want a loaf that dramatically splits as steam escapes.
If this all scares you, take a note from Julie and do the tuck/rise/transfer all on a piece of parchment paper. Or your birth certificate.
For a loaf like the dark, crisp loaf above, bake at 450F for 30 minutes, lid on. Remove the lid and bake for 10-20 minutes more, depending on your oven and how 'Well-Done' you like your loaf - I like a crisp, mahogany one so I leave my bread in there for 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool in the pot, lid back on but only partially, for five minutes. Remove and cool completely, or at least until barely warm, on a wire rack.
And there it is. Eat while just warm, with good olive oil or a smear of butter, slice the next day for toast, and then give up the ghost, throw away the rest or make croutons, bread crumbs. Then make another loaf. And another.
Then wonder what has happened to your life.