Why this recipe works Artisan-style bakery loaves—beautifully browned boules with a thick, crisp crust that breaks to a chewy, open interior—take professional skills to make, right? Wrong. Not only is it possible to make a rustic loaf for your table, it’s easy, too, with the no-knead method of bread baking. This technique replaces the kneading that develops gluten to give bread structure with a high hydration level—around 85 percent (8½ ounces of water for every 10 ounces of flour) —and an 8- to 18-hour-long (and hands-off) resting period, or autolyse. During autolyse, the flour hydrates and enzymes work to break up the proteins so that the dough requires only a brief turn to develop gluten. The dough is then baked in a Dutch oven; the humid environment gives the loaf a dramatic open crumb and a crisp crust. But the breads we tested needed more structure and flavor. To strengthen the dough, we lowered the hydration and added less than a minute of kneading to compensate. We introduced an acidic tang from vinegar and a shot of yeasty flavor from beer. We prefer to use a mild American lager, such as Budweiser, here; strongly flavored beers will make this bread taste bitter.
- makes 1 loaf
- resting time 8 hours
- rising time 1½ to 2 hours
- baking time 55 minutes
- total time 11 to 11½ hours, plus 3 hours cooling time
- key equipment Dutch oven with lid, instant-read thermometer
2). Lay 18 by 12-inch sheet of parchment paper on counter and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 1 minute.
3). Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle, then transfer seam side down to center of prepared parchment.
4). Using parchment as sling, gently lower loaf into Dutch oven (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover tightly with plastic and let rise until loaf has doubled in size and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 1½ to 2 hours.
5). Adjust oven rack to middle position. Using sharp paring knife or single-edge razor blade, make two 5-inch-long, ½-inch-deep slashes with swift, fluid motion along top of loaf to form cross. Cover pot and place in oven. Turn oven to 425 degrees and bake loaf for 30 minutes while oven heats.
6). Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep golden brown and registers 205 to 210 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Using parchment sling, remove loaf from pot and transfer to wire rack; discard parchment. Let cool completely, about 3 hours, before serving.