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Overnight Bread

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)


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Introduction

This version of Jim Lahey's popular No-Knead Bread uses the proportions given in Ellen Jackson's multigrain version, along with a technique suggested by Hank Sawtelle's column on yeasted bread. I make it at least once a week, mixing the dough a full day before I intend to bake it.

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups unbleached all-purpose bread flour, plus more for dusting (see Note)
  2. 1½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  3. ½ cup semolina or amaranth flour
  4. 2 tsp. kosher salt
  5. ½ tsp. active dry yeast
  6. 2 cups warm (100 to 110 degrees) water (see Note)
  7. 2 Tbsp. honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup
  8. Splash of whole milk (about ⅛ cup)
  9. About 1 Tbsp. cornmeal, for dusting the baking pan

Steps

  1. Put the flours, salt, and yeast in a large, heavy bowl, and mix evenly with a fork. Add the water, sweetener, and milk, and stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside in a warm, dry place for at least 18 hours.
  2. After 18 to 20 hours, the dough should have risen a few inches and be speckled with small bubbles. Peel back the plastic wrap, scatter a tablespoon or two of bread flour over the top of the wet dough, and use your fingers to spread the flour evenly across the top of the dough. Gradually scrape the dough down along the sides of the bowl, encouraging the dry flour to drop down around the sides of the dough, until the dough forms a smaller, flour-coated ball. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap again and set aside for at least another two to three hours, to rise a second time.
  3. Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven, put a Dutch oven on the rack, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Remove the (by now quite hot) Dutch oven and turn the oven down to 425 degrees. Scatter the cornmeal over the bottom of the Dutch oven, then dump the bread dough into the pan. (The cornmeal prevents the wet dough from sticking to the hot pan.) Using oven mitts to protect your hands, shake the Dutch oven gently to even out the dough. Cover the Dutch oven with its lid and return to the oven.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees, then remove the lid of the Dutch oven and bake for another 15 minutes. (The initial half-hour baking, with the lid on, retains the steam of the baking process; the second quarter-hour baking, with the lid off, allows the top of the loaf to crisp and brown.) Remove the Dutch oven and tip the loaf of bread out onto a rack to cool completely. Cut into slices to serve.

Note

Ellen Jackson's version of this bread uses 2 cups bread flour, 1 cup whole-wheat flour, and 1 cup of another whole-grain flour, such as rye or barley. I've found that I prefer whole-wheat pastry flour to the denser whole-wheat flour, and for very strongly flavored flours, such as buckwheat, I use only 1/3 to 1/2 cup flour. So long as you have 2 cups bread flour and 2 cups of other flours, for a total of 4 cups flour, feel free to mix it up. I don't bother taking the temperature of my water; I just use warm tap water. Too hot, however, and the water will kill the yeast. This bread, with its thick crust and high moisture content, stays fresh for a few days on the countertop. However, to prevent mold from growing on it, you may wish to slice the loaf and freeze it.