What better way to spend a blustery cool day than by baking a fragrant loaf of bread for supper. I’ve been leery of no-knead recipes. The ones I’ve tried in the past relied on way too much yeast and too short proofing times, resulting in bread that was tasty the same day but lost much of its appeal by the second day. Still, there’s something to be said for the ease of it. I devoted some time this winter to perfecting Mark Bittman’s New York Times recipe, then proceeded to adapt it for variety. So, with soup on the stove begging for some crusty bread, today was the day.
You can watch Bittman’s video if you need some encouragement but it really is as easy as it sounds. The only tricky part is getting the loaf turned into a hot dutch oven without burning yourself, and that’s not even that hard. The only special equipment you need is a dutch oven with a lid, a basket, and a clean cloth napkin or towel. My Le Creuset #22 (3.5 quarts) is the perfect size for this loaf. No need to spend $30 on a banneton basket. I use a wicker basket about 3″ high and 9″ across from the dollar store. The towel or napkin should be smooth and thick, preferably cotton or linen.
Mix up the dough about 24-30 hours before you plan to eat it. I let it rise on the kitchen counter for 24 hours before shaping into a loaf, then it takes another 2-3 hours before it’s ready to bake. My kitchen is generally very cool (60-65°), so you may be able to shorten those times to about 18 hours and 1-2 hours. In winter I put a heating pad on low under the proofing container to help the dough get going. Mix the pepper, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese — real cheese, not that powdery stuff — right into the dough. It’s a very loose dough but don’t add any extra flour. That moisture is what makes this bread exceptional.
— Joan, 25 February 2017
No-knead Pepper Parmesan Bread
- 2¼ cups (315 grams) bread flour
- ¾ cup (105 grams) whole wheat flour
- ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- 1¼ teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 1¼ teaspoons garlic powder
- ¾-1 cup (84-112 grams) shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1½ cups + 2 tablespoons (400 grams) warm water
Mix everything right in the proofing container. A 1-2 gallon container with a lid works perfectly. Just stir it all together till all the dry ingredients are moistened, cover and set aside for 18-24 hours on the kitchen counter. If you don’t get around to baking it after the proofing you can refrigerate it and come back to it in 1-3 days. Take it out of the refrigerator and let it warm for a couple of hours, till it begins to rise again, then shape it.
When it looks doubled in bulk, turn it out onto a well-floured surface and fold it in quarters to the center. I usually go around the loaf a couple of times to get it into a fairly tight ball. Flour the surface of the dough ball liberally. Place a well-floured cloth napkin or towel in your basket and put in the dough, seamside up. Pull the overhanging sides of the towel over the dough ball to cover it and set it aside to double in size.
About an hour before you’re ready to bake, put the ungreased, covered dutch oven into a 450°F oven. When the dough is ready, take out the dutch oven and carefully turn the bread over into it. Sounds terribly tricky. It’s not, but try to work quickly so the dutch oven doesn’t cool off. Even if you bump the dough and it collapses a little it will work. Maybe not quite as you’d like but trust me, you will still want to eat it. Once it’s in the container you can slash or cut the top as desired, though I don’t usually bother. I don’t mind if it splits open in the oven. Cover and return to the oven for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and finish baking to a deep golden brown, another 10-20 minutes. Remove from oven and turn the bread out of the container to cool. Cool at least 45 minutes before cutting, or double-wrap and freeze.