I came across this bread recipe in a cookbook i borrowed from the library, and it has revolutionised my bread-making. All my bread used to turn out much the same (quite dry and with a high crumb factor) whether i had made the dough in the bread-maker, or made it by hand. This recipe, by Wendyl Nissen, requires a bit of fore-thought and planning (you start it a day before you want to eat it), but it IS easy, and it is the nicest bread i have ever made (a fact confirmed by the husband).
I found the recipe in a book called 'One Helping', a Tearfund publication which contains recipes from many well-known New Zealand foodies, but the same recipe can also be found in Wendyl Nissen's own book, 'Mother's Little Helper'. Wendyl writes "We make this every day in our house but we substitute the dried yeast for 1.5 cups of sourdough starter, so if you have a starter, try it out".
My bread (pictured) was made using 2 cups of high-grade white flour, and a cup of dinkel (spelt) flour from Milmore Downs, our local Demeter Biodynamic farm. You can check them out at http://www.milmoredowns.co.nz/ and purchase from them online if you like their products.
This bread is the perfect accompaniment for soup - it is the same bread that is pictured with the mushroom soup a couple of weeks back, and for which i promised you the recipe. If i'm planning soup for dinner or lunch i try to be organised enough to have started this bread the day before so we can have it alongside.
EASY NO-KNEAD BREAD
Wendyl Nissen, in the Tearfund cookbook, 'One Helping'
3 cups white flour (or wholemeal use 1 cup wholemeal & 2 cups white)
0.25 teaspoon granulated yeast
1.25 teaspoons salt
1.5 to 2.5 cups of water
Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Pour the water in slowly and stir until you have sticky - not stiff - dough. Sometimes I need just 1.5 cups of water, others times I need the full 2.5 cups. If you get a sloppy dough, don't worry, it will still make great bread.
Cover with a tea towel and let it prove in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours. You could put it in a hot water cupboard or on top of your fridge. The dough is ready to use when you lift the tea towel and the surface is dotted with bubbles. Don't be alarmed if the batter looks sloppy, this is the way it should look.
Get lots of flour and sprinkle it on a work surface so that you have a thick covering. Tip the bread dough out onto the surface, sprinkle the top with lots more flour and fold it over on itself a few times to make a mound. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 15 minutes to recover.
Flour your hands and shape the dough into a ball. Coat a tea towel liberally with flour - again, a really thick covering and then put the ball of dough onto the tea towel and wrap loosely. Leave in a warm place for 2 hours so that it can double in size.
Half an hour before the dough is ready, put a 2 litre casserole pot or Dutch oven - I use a heavy cast-iron pot with lid - into a hot oven at 230 degrees Celcius to heat. When the dough is ready, take the pot out of the oven, put the bread into it and give it a shake to settle it into the pot. Place it back in the oven with its lid on for 30 minutes, and then cook without the lid for another 5 minutes or so, until the loaf is nicely browned on top.