Serves: Yield: 3 or 4 loaves, depending on size.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 6½ to 7½ cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1½ tbsp. instant yeast
- ¼ cup milk for brushing
Procedures:The most basic of all no-knead loaves, this is a wonderful way to get into yeast-bread baking. The easy stir-together dough rests in your refrigerator, developing flavor all the time, till you’re ready to bake. About 90 minutes before you want to serve bread, grab a handful of dough, shape it, let it rise, then bake for 30 minutes. The result? Incredible, crusty, artisan-style bread. If you’re a first-time bread baker, you’ll never believe this bread came out of your own oven. If you’re a seasoned yeastie, you’ll love this recipe’s simplicity.
The flour/liquid ratio is important in this recipe. If you measure flour by sprinkling it into your measuring cup, then gently sweeping off the excess, use 7½ cups. If you measure flour by dipping your cup into the canister, then use 6½ cups. Most accurate of all and guaranteed to give you the best results, if you measure flour by weight, use 32 ounces.
Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or a large (6-quart) food-safe plastic bucket. For first timers, “lukewarm” means about 105 degrees, but don’t stress over getting the temperatures exact here. Comfortably warm is fine. “OUCH, that is hot!” is not. Yeast is a living thing, treat it nicely.
Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a wooden spoon or dough whisk until everything is combined.
Next, you’re going to let the dough rise. If you’ve made the dough in a plastic bucket, you’re all set—just let it stay there, covering the bucket with a lid or plastic wrap; a shower cap actually works well here. Transfer the dough to a large bowl as it will rise significantly. There is no need to grease the bowl, though you can if you like; it makes it a bit easier to get the dough out when it’s time to bake the bread.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then, refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. (If you are pressed for time, skip the room temperature rise and stick it right into the fridge.) The longer you keep the dough in the fridge, the tangier it’ll get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it’ll rise and then fall. That’s OK; that’s what it’s supposed to do.
When you’re ready to make the bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands and pull off about ¼ to ⅓ of the dough—a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It’ll be about the size of a softball or a large grapefruit.
Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface and round it into a ball or a longer log. Don’t fuss around trying to make it perfect; just do the best you can.
Place the dough on a piece of parchment (if you’re going to use a baking stone); or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the dough moist as it rests before baking.
Let the dough rise for about 45 to 60 minutes. It won’t appear to rise upwards that much; rather it’ll seem to settle and expand. Preheat your oven (and baking stone, if you’re using one) to 450 degrees while the dough rests. Place a shallow metal or cast iron pan (not glass, Pyrex or ceramic) on the lowest rack and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go. If you are using a bread cloche, do not pre-heat your oven and skip to the method below.
When you’re ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about ½" deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that’s OK, it’ll pick up right in the oven. Using a silicone pastry brush, lightly brush the loaf with milk.
Place the bread in the oven, and carefully pour the 1 cup of hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It’ll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly.
Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, or until it is a deep, golden brown.
Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store the leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.