Monday, February 8, 2010

Almost No-Knead Beer Bread

Oh my phobia of baking with's illogical. The thought of waiting for something to rise, then kneading it is pretty horrible to me. But I love bread, so I thought I would give it a chance. Thanks to beer buddies Colleen & Stephen, I've overcome my bread yeast phobia! They passed on this gem of a recipe with the note that it's "idiot proof." Not only is it idiot proof, it's delicious! In the past week I've made 2 loaves, which have paired perfectly with soups and gravy, or it's great just as toast. Get baking and carb up, people!

Cooks Illustrated Almost No-Knead Bread (Adapted from the recipe originally published in the January 2008 issue of Cooks Illustrated)

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (3 ounces) (Use whatever beer's in your fridge. I used an IPA and a Pale Ale and they both tasted great.)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes.* Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

* My first loaf got a little charred on both the bottom and top of the loaf - see photo. For the second round, I kept the lid on longer and put a couple extra layers of parchment under the dough. You'll just need to get to know your oven to figure out what works best for you.

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