I try to make bread for Joe and I as often as we can. Bread at the supermarket these days is pretty flavorless and has a lot of strange additives that aren’t needed. So it’s sort of nice to have something that’s not only super flavorful and with controlled ingredients, but fresh too!
There are two basic ways to make bread: knead and no-knead. We’re all familiar with kneading, but what is no-knead? No knead is a pretty cool technique that requires just a tiny bit of yeast, few ingredients, and time. All you really have to do is mix the dough, let it sit 12-18 hours, do a 2nd rise, and bake! I learned the technique from this great website called breadtopia. But up until now, I had really only tried white bread recipes with this technique. Because my goal this summer is to bake healthier, I set out to try the partial wheat recipe featured on breadtopia. It’s 1/3 wheat flour and 2/3 white bread flour.
Directions: Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the water and mix. If you have a dough whisk, this is a perfect time to use it. If you don’t, a simple wooden spoon works fine. If you buy bottled water, you should go ahead and use the bottled stuff. Mix the dough until the water is completely incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave the bowl out at room temperature for 12-18 hours.
After the initial rise, sprinkle flour on your work surface. Turn out the dough with a dough scrapper onto your work surface. Pat down the dough into a rectangle. You’re going to fold the dough in thirds along the short axis. Then fold in half.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes. While it’s resting, prepare your final proofing bowl. I don’t have a proper proofing basket, so I just washed the bowl from the dough and used that again. To prepare your bowl, spray it with non-stick spray. Then sprinkle with your favorite topping. I used wheat bran. But you can also use plain flour, oats, or seeds. Just something so that your wet bread won’t stick to the bowl.
After the 15 minute rest, flour your hands. Pick up the dough carefully and quickly form it into a ball by circling the dough in your hands at the edges of the folds. Place the dough in your prepared bowl and cover with a tea towel. For this, the second rise, let the dough sit for 1.5 hours (1-2 hours). In the last half hour of the rise, put your cast iron dutch oven in the oven and preheat at 450°F.
When the oven and dutch oven are preheated, you’re ready to bake! Pull out the cast iron out of the oven. Gently flip the dough out into the dutch oven and cover with the lid. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and lower the temp to 400°F. Continue to bake for another 20 minutes.
Remove the bread from the dutch oven and cool on a wire rack. If it sounds hollow when you tap on the bottom of the loaf, the bread is fully baked.
Cool completely and slice with a serrated knife.
I have a lot of notes about this recipe.
- Regarding the yeast time, you really need instant yeast to ensure you get a second rise.
- Tap water is fluorinated and often chlorinated for our benefit (dental health and antibacterial, respectively.) However, these additives are not good for your little yeastie beasties. So if you have purified water, use it. If not, the yeast will prevail.
- The first rise is where the magic happens. Even though you put just a tiny bit of yeast in the flour, they will start to divide and break down the complex starches in the flour. Over time, gluten will form into long strings of protein and sugars. These chains are what give your bread structure.
- The yeast are pretty powerful, but they aren’t superheros. The optimum temperature for the slow rise is room temperature. If you know it’s going to be a hot day, you might want to put the dough in the fridge. If the yeast grow too quickly, they will eventually “peeter out,” and you won’t get a proper 2nd rise.
- This video (the long version) is by far the best tutorial. (And you’ll also note that this is their recipe.) I just have absolutely no changes to make! I’m not a huge fan of reinventing the wheel, but I am a huge fan of spreading the word about great recipes.
- I used 450°F instead of 500°F as the initial temperature because cast iron gets a bit hotter than a traditional la cloche. But if you have a traditional la cloche, then start at 500°F and go down to 450°F.
- If you’re looking for whole wheat bread but don’t have any experience making whole wheat bread, I beg of you to try this recipe first. Whole wheat bread is difficult to master, even as an experienced baker. Whole wheat is harder for your little yeast friends to digest, so you can’t use the same basic recipe. But I promise I’ll post one very soon!
Enjoy with a soup or stew. Or spread with your favorite jam as a part of a healthy breakfast.