There are bakers and there are cooks. It takes a chemist’s love of precision to be a baker.
Me? I’m a cook.
However, I do love to bake bread, which I’ve been doing for several years, experimenting with everything from the old-fashioned knead-it-up method to grow-your-own-wild-yeast-before-you-even-start-mixing-the-dough recipes.
Recently, I had a breakthrough when I took a class with the legendary Jim Lahey, founder of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York and the man behind a sensational recipe for no-knead, slow-rise, no-fuss bread.
After the class, I adjusted his basic formula to my liking, adding extra whole-wheat flour, toasted walnuts and rosemary.
One of the ways to ensure your success here is by measuring your flour by weight, not volume.
When you scoop and measure flour using a measuring cup, the amount you get each time can vary widely. The discrepancy is due to how tightly or loosely the flour is packed. So I recommend investing in a good kitchen scale if you’re going to bake bread.
Note: This is not your grandmother’s method of making bread. So don’t be thrown off by the wetness of the dough (it’s very wet), the temperature of the water added (it’s cool, not warm), or the temperature at which the dough first rises (it’s room temp, not warmer).
The only down side to this recipe is the need to plan ahead. Even though mixing the dough takes no time at all (30 seconds), you have to let it rise for at least 12, and preferably 18, hours. Then, after you’ve shaped it into a loaf (another 30 seconds), it needs to rise for yet another hour or two. Finally, it takes 45 to 60 minutes for the bread to bake, and it has to cool completely before you can eat it.
Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”
No-Knead Walnut-Rosemary Bread
Makes 1 loaf (10 servings). Recipe is by Sara Moulton.
1/2 cup (50 grams) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 cups (266 grams) bread flour
1 cup (133 grams) whole-wheat flour
11/4 tsps. (8 grams) table salt
3/4 tsp. (2 grams) instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 tbls. (6 grams) chopped rosemary
11⁄3 cups (350 grams) cool water (55 F to 65 F)
Additional flour, wheat bran or cornmeal, for dusting
1. Heat the oven to 350 F.
2. Place walnuts in a shallow baking dish, place on the oven’s middle shelf to toast 10-12 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. Once nuts are cooled, in a medium bowl stir them together with both flours, salt, yeast and rosemary. Add the water and stir briefly with a wooden spoon or your hands, just until the dough is barely mixed, about 30 seconds. The dough should be quite wet and tacky. If not, add 1-2 tablespoons more water. Cover bowl and let rise at room temperature for 12-18 hours, or until it is more than double in bulk.
4. After the dough has risen, generously sprinkle a work surface with flour and gently, with the help of a plastic bench scraper, scoop out the dough onto the counter.
5. Working very quickly, with floured hands, fold dough inward to the center on all sides to form a seam. Turn the dough over to form a round with the seam on the bottom. Generously sprinkle a clean kitchen towel with flour. Lay the towel flat on the counter and set the dough on top, seam down. Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour and loosely fold the ends of towel over the dough.
6. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours, or until almost doubled in bulk. You’ll know it’s ready when you poke the dough and it holds your imprint. If the dough bounces back, it is not ready.
7. About 30 minutes before you think the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 F. Put a rack in lower third of oven, and place a covered 4½- to 5½-quart casserole dish in oven to heat.
8. When dough has risen, carefully remove casserole dish from oven and remove lid. With the aid of the tea towel, flip dough gently, seam side up, into casserole, put lid on casserole and return to oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the lid and bake until the bread has browned nicely, another 15-30 minutes.
9. Remove casserole dish from oven and use a spatula or dish towel to carefully transfer bread to a rack to cool completely.
Nutrition information per serving: 180 calories (40 calories from fat = 22 percent of total calories); 5 grams fat (0 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 0 milligrams cholesterol; 30 grams carbohydrate (3 grams fiber; 0 grams sugar); 6 grams protein; 290 milligrams sodium.