Baking bread is one my culinary fears. I do not know why but it is one of those things that I’ve always had a mental block about, much like making Indian food, sushi, and homemade Mexican tortillas. Although I fear it, I find bread baking absolutely fascinating, intriguing and I’m enviously impressed of all of those who master it.
Bread is such a global food. Every culture has their version of it. Regardless of your geographic location or social status, we all eat bread. I wish I could do a world bread tour and get to know every country through their bread. Can you imagine how glorious that would be? Anyone want to come with.. and maybe also fund this trip?
Over the course of my life, I’ve been spoiled. Growing up we would buy bread at the local Panaderia (bakeries in Venezuela). Everything from Venezuelan style sweet rolls, ham and cheese bread, guava bread and my favorite Pan Dulce. Literally translated it means Sweet Bread. Buttery lightly sweetened bread with a dusting of sugar on top. I remember eating it as a kid with thick slices of a salty cheese. So good!
I continued enjoying good bread when my family moved to Iowa and my mom befriended an incredible home cook and baker. My mom learned how to make American style breads which open my eyes to even more types of breads. And of course I can’t leave out my Tia Gloria. This woman makes some of my all-time favorite crusty bread! Giant hearty crusty Italian loaves cooked in a wood fired oven. These breads are monstrous! Fresh out of the oven with cheese and prosciutto…. Ahhhh…excuse me as I am salivating over here.
Then there was college when I studying abroad and ate my way through France and gained a good 15lbs in bread weight. I can vividly recall countless dinners of baguette, brie and wine. Nothing else needed. Bread pretty much fed me for 6 months straight.
Now living in Minnesota I am surrounded by even more incredible bread. Not only living near 2 of the best bakeries, Rustica and Patisserie 46, but also being spoiled by incredible caramel rolls and Swedish tea ring by my mother-in-law. Needless to say I’m pretty lucky.
So you can see where my fear comes from. I’ve indulged in fabulous bread my whole life and have been scared to try it myself. But I decided to give it a try and opted for a truly beginner’s recipes.
This Beginner’s No-Knead Peasant Bread is simple. 4 ingredients, that is all. As a novice I think this is the best way to start. Understanding the basic ingredients and how they meld together to create a humble peasant loaf.
My favorite part of this recipe is that you can make it overnight and have it ready for breakfast. Or you can make it in the morning before work and have bread for dinner. It is so easy. I’m promise if you have the ingredients, a cast iron pot with a lid and 2 hands, you can do this. And it is really truly delicious. It will leave you thinking “Yes I can make bread!”
So if you want to WOW your family and yourself with some homemade bread but have a bread baking phobia like me, start slow and easy with this simple fool-proof recipe.
Beginner’s No-Knead Peasant Bread
Makes 1 loaf.
Notes: this bread is best right out of the oven. I like to store left overs in a plastic bag in the freezer, then thaw on the counter and lightly toast before eating. Some great left over uses for this bread include: croutons, tartines or crostinis, panzanella or bread salad, bread pudding and of course eggy breakfast stratas.
A cast iron pot or Le Creuset style enamel pot with lid is a must for this recipe. This type of pot is essential as it traps all of the internal moisture in the dough and creates the steam you need to get a crisp crust.
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 3/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 1 1/2 cups water
Optional: a sprinkle (about a tablespoon or 2) of polenta or coarse corn meal to create a bottom crust.
In a large mixing bowl (I like using a glass bowl), whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until ingredients come together. If you need a tablespoon or 2 extra of water to make it come together go ahead and add it. It will look like shaggy soggy mess. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or kitchen towel and set aside for 9 – 18 hours.
Heat oven to 450° degrees and place a cast iron pot with lid on in the oven. Let the empty pot heat for 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball as best you can. It will be sticky so flour your hands a bit. Remember you don’t need to knead it 🙂 Cover with the same plastic wrap or kitchen towel and let it rest.
Remove hot pot from the oven. I like to sprinkle a little polenta or coarse corn meal on the bottom of the hot pot to create a little crumble bottom crust. However this step is completely optional. CAREFULLY drop the dough into the hot pot. Do not worry if it is not round, it will bake beautifully regardless of the shape. Cover with the lid and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an extra 12-15 minutes (this creates a crust). Take hot pot out of the oven, carefully remove bread and cool on a cooling rack.
Slice it up with a serrated knife and enjoy with a good dab of butter.
Recipe slightly adapted from Simply So Good No-Knead Bread.