This is the infamous NY Times No-Knead Bread recipe, and all of the rumors are true. It is the most amazing bread recipe EVER.
No, I've never made bread before. This was my first try. But aside from having an absurdly long rise time (18 hours), I love everything about this bread. Even the rise time isn't that big of a problem if you time it right-you could mix up the ingredients right before you go to bed at night and then bake it when you get home from work the next day. It would totally be worth it.
The only warning I want to issue is this: the dough is incredibly sticky. I mean, very, very sticky. You need to flour anything that touches the dough, including your hands, if you want to avoid getting dough bits stuck everywhere. The plus side to this is that it is the super-wet dough that allows the bread to be so low-maintenance and yet so delicious. The exterior is crusty, the interior is fluffy and chewy.
So do not be afraid of homemade bread! It is easy, I promise. Now go, bake and prosper.
3 C flour
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 5/8 C water (5/8 C = 5 ounces)
Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the yeast and the salt. Make sure you use a big bowl because the dough is going to double in size.
Add the water and stir just to combine.
Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and let sit for 12-18 hours in a warm place.
After at least 12 hours has elapsed (I usually wait 18, but it's your call), the dough will have doubled in size and will be very bubbly.
Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and fold it over onto itself once or twice. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, flour your hands and quickly shape the dough into a ball-ish shape. While you are doing this re-flour the cutting board (or wherever you have the dough resting.) Cover with a floured towel and let sit for another 2 hours. If rest the dough on a towel like I did, make sure you flour the towel really well or the dough will stick to the towel. Also, don't use a terrycloth towel. If you do, the little nubs on the towel will likely become embedded in the bread and we don't want that!
Half an hour before the 2 hours are up, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees and place a heavy covered pot (I use enameled cast iron, but anything heavy like pyrex will work) into the oven to warm up. Turn the dough into the heated pot.
Bake covered for 30 minutes. Half-way done bread! At this point, your kitchen will begin to smell delicious. You will feel unexpectedly happy and secure. This is all part of the plan.
Now bake uncovered for another 30 minutes. The crust will be dark and golden.
See all of those lovely air pockets?
I recommend you eat at least a slice while it is still warm from the oven. Butter is (obviously) delicious, but you could dip it in olive oil and balsamic, too. Mmmm.
Another quick note-please make sure you don't put your very hot pan on any uncovered wooden surface. I'm usually very good about this but I accidentally burned my wooden countertop the second time I made this bread. Very sad. Learn from my mistake! Cover your wood!