Ask your friends what “artisan bread” means and you’ll get dozens of answers. To me, it just means bread made at home that tastes fantastic. It has a big, coarse crumb (in plain English, that means it has holes inside), a chewy texture, a crackling blistered crust and a deep, yeasty flavor with a hint of tang.
The New York Times no-knead bread recipe makes a loaf just like that, and it really is as easy as the article says it is. Baker Jim Lahey says “I think a 4-year-old could master it,” and New York Times writer Mark Bittman says an ambitious 8-year-old could. All it takes is planning and one special tool: a covered cast iron or stoneware casserole to bake the slack, moist dough in.
The most important thing you need to consider with no-knead bread is time. It takes about 24 hours to create a loaf: 12 to 18 hours to ferment the dough and four to five hours to shape, rest and bake the loaf.
This translates into a weekend project that takes about 24 hours.
I mix the dough at 6 p.m. Friday night. The dough ferments in the den until noon Saturday. I shape the dough and give it a second rise and it goes into the oven about 3 p.m. At 4 p.m., the loaf comes out of the oven. At 4:01 p.m., I resist the urge to tear into the bread before it cools enough to slice it. At 5 p.m., it’s ready for dinner. In all this time, you’ve invested very little labor. Biology has done all the hard work for you. You’ve contributed patience and a hot oven.
Ready to start? Read the instructions through once and plan for artisan bread to go with Saturday dinner.
Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery No-Knead Bread (via the New York Times)