What makes this bread so great? It's a combination of several factors: slow rise, wet dough, and baking technique. The small amount of yeast needed for a slow, overnight rise lets the flavor of the flour develop into a complex taste that is new to many home bread-bakers. The wet dough means that the gluten can develop without long, tedious kneading. Also, the technique for baking (a covered pot) gives a delicate, crackly crust that shatters with each bite. It's delicious, and so easy.
The overnight rise, however, requires some advance planning, and we had an impromptu dinner party last week that didn't give us time for the 18-hour rise recommended in the recipe. Is it possible to get that lovely slow rise taste in a shorter amount of time? Yes, we discovered, it is.
This adaptation still needs advanced notice, but you can start the dough in the morning instead of the day before. Also, it lets you proof the dough for a shorter amount of time, so if you only have an hour to put dinner on the table, you should still be OK. Just remember: fresh bread, even if it is not perfect, is better than no bread it all!
If you truly only have an hour TOTAL, check out our No-Time Bread instead.
If you're wondering if you should buy a Dutch oven for this bread, check out our tips on Dutch ovens:
And if you don't have a Dutch oven, no problem! See:
(Quicker) No-Knead Bread
3 cups bread flour
3/4 teaspoon regular yeast (not instant)
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
Mix all the ingredients in the morning before you go to work. This should take about 3 minutes and leave you with a thick, slightly goopy dough. Mark Bittman calls it "shaggy." Cover with a towel or some plastic wrap and leave it in the warmest spot in your kitchen. It should get a 6 to 8-hour rise.
When you come home from work lightly mist a counter or baking sheet with spray oil and turn dough out on it. Shape it roughly into a ball, mist with oil again, and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Let proof for about an hour, or however long you have. (You can also proof your dough a little faster in the microwave!)
Heat the oven to 450°F. Put a Dutch oven (or one of these alternatives) in the oven to heat. When the dough has doubled in size, put it in the pan. You may have to pour it, pry it off the baking sheet, or just roll it in - the dough is very wet. Don't worry if it looks a mess. Cover the pot with a lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake for another 15 minutes to let it brown.
You can be really sure that the bread is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the side of the loaf reads 210-220°F.
(Image credit: Faith Hopler for Apartment Therapy)