Peasant Bread

Small peasant bread

I am probably the last person in the food blogging world who has not yet made no-knead bread, the New York Times recipe for crusty peasant bread that requires just stirring and refrigeration before baking it in a dutch oven. The other day we had an old grad school chum of mine over for dinner and I wished mightily I’d started a batch of it a day or two before. Since that wasn’t about to happen, I found a different NYT recipe for easy, no-knead peasant bread. This one wasn’t as crusty as I’d have liked, but forming a tough crust in this case comes from having a really hot pan in the oven that you pour water into and slam the door to trap steam. I am not nearly so coordinated, and forgot to put the pan in the oven to heat, so this wasn’t so crunchy. It was a small loaf–about 8″ across, fine for the 3 of us for dinner and then some–and was very tasty, and even stayed moist a couple of days. It’s also ridiculously easy to make, which is good for those of you out there terrified of working with yeast. I, on the other hand, have a five-pound block of the stuff and have no fear, even though with some of the messes I’ve made, I probably should.

The NYT got this recipe from the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.

Here’s the cut and pasted recipe:

Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
Cornmeal.
1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Yield: 4 loaves.

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