Thursday, December 07, 2006

French 'boule' bread

Back to the promised No-Knead Bread. It's really not news since it's been covered in over 200 blogs now, but in case you haven't heard - listen up. It all started when Mark Bittman, known as The Minimalist, of the New York Times wrote about a recipe for a yeast bread that didn't require kneading. Hence the name. The fact that it didn't require kneading didn't really pique my interest that much since I enjoy making bread. But those photos. I couldn't resist a recipe that apparently produced such a good looking French style 'boule' loaf. Especially since one thing I would tell people moving abroad (or to Fort Benning) is to get out and taste the local food, then learn how to make it yourself. I tried making a baguette once. The results were...ehh.

Three ingredients

But this was different. This simple recipe truly captures the taste, texture, and rustic appeal of the 'boules' from the boulangerie on the corner. Who knew it only took three ingredients and water? Oh, and 20 hours. That's right. It rises twice - once for 18 hours, then for another two. I timed how long I was actually spending hands-on to make the bread: 4 minutes the first day + 11 minutes the second day. That includes the commute from living room to kitchen to preheat the oven and check on it a few times.

The key to this recipe is the long rise time and high heat baking. A quick note on high heat cooking. Be sure your bakeware can handle it. The lid on my dish cracked after about five minutes at full heat. Fortunately, it's easily replaced here. But keep that in mind as you choose your baking dish.

Stirring until just mixed

Here are the ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
11/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water

For instructions, go here. You can even watch a how-to video here. And once you get the fever, read this follow-up article on variations and tips.

18 hours later

So who should make this bread?
- Anyone looking to impress friends.
- Anyone who loves French bread or wants to know what the real thing tastes like.
- Anyone afraid of traditional yeast recipes.
- Anyone making a sandwich today and French toast tomorrow. (Since there's no oil or preservative ingredient, it only keeps for about two days max.)

After second rise and a dusting of flour

Who should not make this bread?
- Anyone wanting to learn how to make yeast breads. It's a great starting point and confidence booster (and did I mention delicious?) but won't teach you what you 'knead' to know. (I crack myself up.)

Fresh out of the oven

A very big merci to Jim Lahey, the owner of Sullivan Street Bakery on West 47th Street in Manhattan, who shared his recipe with Mark Bittman. You did a very good thing.


Jill Duffy said...

I've done this recipe a number of times, but it's relieving to see photos of other people's results to see how mine match up. Next time you bake, would you take a photo of the cross section? I want to see how your bubbles form inside the bread. Thanks for sharing!

HRH Sarah said...

Thanks for the gorgeous pictures, I am definitely making this bread today!

Jocelyn said...

Does anyone know if this works baking in a Dutch oven, such as a Le Creuset?