Crusty Bread in Your Home Oven

Crusty Bread in Your Home Oven

Fed up with artisanal bread that costs upwards of £4 a loaf, I started baking my own bread last year. The results were good but not astounding, until I started experimenting with the "no-knead bread" recipe developed by Jim Lahey from the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York and published in the New York Times. However, I didn't want to have to plan making bread a day in advance, and hunted around on the internet for faster versions. There are some speedier versions that Mark Bittman came up with for the NY Times, but here's my super-fast version which seems pretty foolproof, and produces a crusty bread with a great sourdough-like texture. The only essential ingredient is an ovenproof casserole, ideally cast-iron, with a tight-fitting lid.

 

Mix together 500 grams bread flour (mix of wholemeal and white is good. I like about 2/3 malted grain bread flour and 1/3 white bread flour), 1 packet of instant yeast, 1-2 tbsps salt and 390 ml warm water. The mixture will be very sticky.

Cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and leave to rise for about 2 hours or longer.

Heat a covered pot in the oven at the highest temperature. When you switch on the oven, transfer the dough to a floured bowl or proving basket and put in the refrigerator for 20 minutes while the oven heats up.

Carefully take the hot pot out of the oven and dump the sticky dough inside. It's good if it has a bit of a rough texture and some flour on the top. Cover the pot, return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the lid from the pot and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the crust is dark brown and a little burnt in spots.

Take the bread out and cool on a rack.