Thanks in large part to the no-knead bread revolution, we completely ditched store-bought bread last year and started making our own on a weekly basis! One problem, though: we make a lot of sandwiches and just tend to like the loaf-shape better. Can the no-knead bread be adapted? Why, yes it can!
The no-knead bread is so wet and sticky that it can be difficult to shape into anything except a round loaf. Here's what to do to make it workable:
After the dough has risen and you're ready to shape the loaf, sprinkle the counter liberally with a handful of flour and turn the dough out on top. Sprinkle a little more flour over the top of the dough and knead the dough just two or three times until the flour is incorporated and the dough is no longer bubble-gum sticky. A bench scraper can help with the initial kneading if the dough sticks to the counter.
Then shape the dough into a sandwich loaf following these simple guidelines. If the dough still seems very sticky, coat your hands with flour so you can work with the dough. But also don't be afraid of the sticky dough! Even if all you can manage is to fold the dough on itself once and dump it in the pan, it will actually turn out just fine.
Place the shaped loaf into a greased bread pan and let it rise until it's just starting to crest over the rim of the pan. Don't worry if the loaf seems misshaped or sticky going into the pan - it will fill in the sides and assume a loaf shape as it rises. Turn on the oven to 450° to pre-heat about 20 minutes before baking.
Just before baking, rub a little flour into the surface of the loaf and cut a slash or two with a serrated knife. This will help prevent cracking as the loaf rises in the oven.
Bake the loaves for 30-35 minutes, turning them once halfway through so they bake evenly. The loaves should be golden-red with a few toasted brown spots. Shake them out of the pan and tap the bottom with your knuckle - if it sounds hollow, they're done! If you're not sure, check the internal temperature. Bread is done when the center registers 190°.
The resulting loaf will have a softer crust and a tighter, more spongy crumb than the regular no-knead bread - perfect for our sandwiches! If you have picky eaters in your house who insist on store-bought white bread, you might give this a try with them. And it's theoretically a big bread no-no, but if you store the loaf in a plastic bag, the crust gets even softer.
More on No-Knead Bread:
• Bittman's No-Knead Bread Phenomenon (link to original NY Times article and recipe)
• Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (with link to original NY Times article and recipe)
• No-Knead Bread in a Hurry
(Image: Emma Christensen)