When I read Mark Bittman’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times on a bakery that’s not kneading its bread, I knew I had to try his recipe. Here’s the idea: kneading bread (typically made of flour and water) activates the gluten in the flour (in wheat flour, “gluten” is actually made up mostly of two proteins, glutenin and gliadin), and allows the dough to become stretchy and hold in all those great air bubbles. But time can achieve the same goal. Herego, if you mix up a bunch of flour and water and leave it on the counter for a day, you can make bread without kneading.
Which is exactly what I did.
The process was just as simple as he made it sound; you put a bunch of flour, yeast, salt, and water into a bowl and let it sit on your counter. Before baking it off, you spend 10 seconds shaping it, let it proof for a few more hours, dump it into a big pot with a lid on it (I used the big Le Creuset I use for stews), and bombs away (can I make that joke now that the Dems control both houses?).
Result: Gorgeous, crackly-crispy white bread. Good, chewy, deeply-colored crust, fluffy, holey, soft interior. Let’s put it this way, I’ve had a meal’s worth since dinnertime. Not the best bread I’ve had in my entire life, but the best bread I’ve ever made myself, certainly.
A few tips:
Never wear black while baking bread (why do I continually forget this?).
When he says to flour the tea towels liberally, he means it. Do it, or like me, you’ll be picking dough out of the towel for way too long afterward.
LISTEN to the bread when it comes out of the oven. It’s rather talkative.
Article: The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work, by Mark Bittman.
The New York Times, 11.8.06