Like so many others, I leapt with joy the first time I tried the New York Times recipe for no-knead bread. I was stunned at how easily I created a loaf of artisan bread (Acme bakery, you got nothin’ on this bunny, muahahahahaha!). Many, many loaves of no-knead bread have been devoured here at chez slippers. However, there have probably been just as many loaves that could have been, would have been willingly devoured if mama had only remembered to create her sponge the night before.
While I am pretty darned organized, I am also pretty busy, and I wouldn’t consider the post bedtime hours my peak of productivity, not by a long shot. So yeah, we missed out on a lot of crusty chewy bread goodness because “DANG I forgot to make the dough last night!” I think missing out only fed the bread lust around this joint. I have to admit, I got pretty used to being able to whip up a crusty loaf without shelling out $5 for it either. So one day, when we absolutely COULD NOT go without a loaf of bread at dinner, and when I really, really wanted the crusty, chewy, yummy, artisan approach I decided to improvise. I experimented with the dough recipe with a light, chewy loaf in mind, then applied the flour and covered steaming techniques from the NYT recipe. It took a few tries to create a nice crusty loaf that wasn’t burnt on the bottom or as dense as a day old cake donut. Eventually I was able to create a lovely light, crusty, basic bread. It lacks the air bubbles and chewiness of the no-knead bread. You DO have to knead it. But this is one mean loaf of bread, and sure hits the spot when you forget to make your sponge the night before.
BUSY MAMA’S CRUSTY LOAF of BREAD
4 Cups Flour
1 T Fresh Yeast or 1 Pkg Instant Yeast
1 T Salt
1 ½ T Sugar
1 T Butter
2 T Olive Oil
1-11/2 Cups Warm Water
Combine flour, yeast, salt, sugar, butter and olive oil in the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment (Don’t have a dough hook? Use the mixing paddle. Don’t have a standing mixer? Use a big bowl, a wooden spoon and some elbow grease, you can count it as your workout for the day.). Turn on the mixer (or start stirring) and slowly add a cup of warm water to the flour mixture, mix until the water is incorporated, adding up to half a cup more warm water to create a soft, silk dough. Continue mixing for five minutes or turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Place dough back into the bowl, cover with a warm damp towel and allow it to rise for an hour. Halfway through the rise, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Find a Dutch oven with a lid, a big, oven-proof pot or pan with a lid, or an oven-proof casserole dish with a lid into the oven while it heats (you want the dish and the lid to get HOT!). When the oven (and the dish) are hot, take the dough and form it into a loose ball (don’t worry about being neat, you want it to have a rustic quality) and sprinkle it with flour. Toss a bit more flour in the bottom of the hot pan, then place the dough into the pan and put the cover on. Immediately lower the temperature to 400 degrees and bake the bread in the covered pan for 15 minutes. Then remove the pan from the oven, gently remove the loaf from the pan and place it directly on the oven rack. Bake for 20-25 minutes more until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the top of it. Allow the loaf to cool and enjoy!