For physician Jeffrey Hertzberg and baker Zoe Francois, the journey to no-knead bread began innocently enough.
While their toddlers learned to play the xylophone in a Minneapolis music class, Hertzberg began telling Francois about his no-knead, five-minute mix of flour, salt, yeast and water.
Made in large batches, the dough can be refrigerated for weeks and baked one loaf at a time by simply cutting off a piece, letting it rise, shaping and baking. Trained in traditional methods, Francois was skeptical, but she saw promise in a wetter-than-average dough that was easier to handle and simple to work with.
The duo is now releasing their second book on no-knead bread. Theirs isn’t the only fire in the pan: two fellow bread pioneers have also done the same.
Trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Francois embraced Hertzberg’s method after checking it out herself.
“When I tried it, it really was revolutionary, and was mind boggling because it went against everything I had been taught,” she said.
“Everybody had to know about this.”
The first book from the two, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007), was well received and has 200,000 copies in print. Their new book is Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
Two other no- or low-knead bread bakers also put out books in October: Jim Lahey with My Bread (W.W. Norton & Co.) and Peter Reinhart (who pledges ease more than outright no-knead) with Artisan Breads Everyday (Ten Speed Press).
To those counting the minutes, no-knead bread doesn’t really take just five minutes.
But critics and proponents agree it’s a vast improvement over the laborious process of making artisan breads using classic methods — kneading and rising, with starters to consider for sourdough or rye.
In their new book, Hertzberg and Francois have gone one step further, baking breads that use less sugar, healthy grains, fruits and vegetables, and are friendly to those with allergies or food sensitivities.
This easy bread from Jim Lahey’s My Bread: The Revolutionary No-work, No-knead Method is studded with chunks of pecorino cheese. If you prefer, any firm or semi-firm cheese can be substituted.
750 ml (3 cups) bread flour
625 ml (2 1/2 cups) cubed (1-cm/1/2-inch cubes) pecorino cheese
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
3 ml (3/4 tsp) instant or other active dry yeast
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground black pepper
325 ml (1 1/3 cups) cool (13 C to 18 C/55 F to 65 F) water
Wheat bran, cornmeal or additional flour, for dusting
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cheese, salt, yeast and pepper. Add water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds.
Cover bowl and let sit at room temperature until surface is dotted with bubbles and dough is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.
When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape dough out of the bowl in one piece.
Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, lift edges of the dough in toward the centre. Nudge and tuck in edges of dough to make it round.
Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal or flour. Gently place dough on towel, seam side down. If dough is tacky, dust top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal or flour.
Fold ends of tea towel loosely over dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
Half an hour before the end of the second rise, heat oven to 245 C (475 F), with a rack in the lower third. Place a covered 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-l heavy pot in the centre of the rack.
Using pot holders, carefully remove heated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold tea towel and quickly but gently invert dough into pot, seam side up. Use caution; the pot will be very hot. Cover pot and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove lid and continue baking until bread is a deep chestnut colour, but not burned, 15 to 30 minutes more.
Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to gently lift bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly.
Makes one 25-cm (10-inch) round loaf.
Wild Rice and Onion Bread
This delicious bread from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day is studded with wild rice and onions and requires just a few minutes of kneading. It can be made into sandwich loaves, baguettes, round loaves or rolls. Fresh or dried onions can be used. If you use dried, add an extra 30 to 60 ml (2 to 4 tbsp) of water while mixing.
1.5 l (6 cups) unbleached bread flour
11 ml (2 1/4 tsp) table salt or 17 ml (3 1/2 tsp) coarse kosher salt
30 ml (2 tbsp) instant yeast
250 ml (1 cup) cooked wild rice or another cooked grain
50 ml (1/4 cup) brown sugar
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) lukewarm water (about 35 C/95 F)
125 ml (1/2 cup) lukewarm buttermilk or any other milk (about 35 C/95 F)
50 ml (1/4 cup) minced or chopped dried onions or 500 ml (2 cups) diced fresh yellow onion (about 1 large onion)
1 egg white, for egg wash (optional)
15 ml (1 tbsp) water, for egg wash (optional)
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except egg white and 15 ml (1 tbsp) water for the egg wash. If using a mixer, use paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for 1 minute. The dough should be sticky, coarse and shaggy. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Switch to dough hook and mix on medium-low speed, or continue mixing by hand, for 4 minutes, adding flour or water as needed to keep the dough ball together. The dough should be soft, supple and slightly sticky.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead for 2 to 3 minutes, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will still be soft and slightly sticky, but will hold together to form a soft, supple ball.
Place dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and immediately refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days. If you plan to bake dough in batches over different days, you can portion the dough and place it into two or more oiled bowls at this stage.
When ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 hours before you plan to bake.
Shape dough into one or more sandwich loaves or into freestanding loaves of any size, which you can shape as batards, baguettes or boules, or into rolls.
When shaping, use only as much flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. For sandwich loaves, let the dough rise in greased loaf pans. For freestanding loaves and rolls, line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat and let the dough rise on the pan.
Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until increased to about 1 1/2 times its original size. In loaf pans, the dough should dome at least 2.5 cm above the rim.
To make the rolls shinier, whisk egg white and water together. Brush tops of rolls before baking.
About 15 minutes before baking, heat the oven to 180 C (350 F) or 150 C (300 F) for a convection oven.
Bake loaves for 10 to 15 minutes, then rotate pan; rotate rolls after 8 minutes. The total baking time is 45 to 55 minutes for loaves, and 20 to 25 minutes for rolls.
The bread is done when it has a rich golden colour, the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and the internal temperature is above 85 C (185 F) at the centre. Cool on a wire rack before slicing. Makes 2 large loaves or many rolls.
Source: Recipe from Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed Press, 2009).