Daily Bread: No Knead Italian Style Bread

Jesus said that ‘man cannot live on bread alone’ but I beg to differ.

I would be quite happy with a thick slice of crusty bread for pretty much any meal or occasion.

And I also say, get rid of anyone who tells you that too much bread is not good for you. You do not need that sort of negativity in your life.

I have been spending a little while getting back into breadmaking and now that we are practicing self isolation and working from home for the good of humanity against this hideous coronavirus pandemic, I now have the time to make my own bread while we ride out the apocalypse.

In all seriousness, though, this bread recipe is so quick to make and requires so little effort that you can literally make this your ‘daily bread’. A loaf this size lasts the two of us a couple of days. Throw everything in the bowl, give it a quick mix with a spatula to combine, then cover and leave for a few hours before a quick stretch and fold and that’s pretty much the work done. Most of the work is in the resting, so you can get on with the rest of your day.

You don’t need any fancy equipment for this bread – no machines, no dough hooks, no breadbaskets. However, you will need a cast iron pot or Dutch oven that can take at least 220C in the oven and you should really not compromise on good quality Italian 00 flour. Italian flours are now available in most supermarkets (Molini Pizzuti and Caputo flours are popular, and Caputo is my brand of choice). Italian flours are graded differently to Australian flours and have a rating of anywhere between 0 and 04. The 00 grade is a strong flour that can hold height and shape which you definitely want for a bread like this. If you can find Caputo flour, Caputo Classico (with blue packaging) is perfect for this bread and I have also had good success with Caputo Cuoco (red packaging).

I usually mix the ingredients before I leave for work. When I get home, I warm the pot in the oven, do the stretch and fold, and bake it while dinner is cooking. It is important, though, to at least rest the baked bread an hour after baking – resist the urge to cut straight into the warm loaf as hard as it is! While the bread is cooling, you will hear a snap, crackle and pop sound: this is the crust forming as it comes to room temperature and will help to give you a satisfying crunch when you eventually cut in and eat. Also, the crumb is still forming and developing texture and flavour while you let it cool. My advice would be to bake it at night, pull the bread out on a cooling rack and leave overnight covered with a tea-towel for breakfast the next day. It will be worth the wait!

I would love to see your bread creations and to hear how this recipe works for you. Upload your pics to Instagram and tag me in your posts @aldoincucina – and most importantly, STAY HOME!

NO KNEAD ITALIAN STYLE BREAD

You will need

  • A cast iron pot or Dutch oven which can stand at least 220C in the oven
  • A large mixing bowl
  • A spatula
  • A beeswax cover or tea towel and dinner plate which can fit over your mixing bowl like a lid
  • A clean mixing bowl for resting the dough
  • Baking paper

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups of Italian 00 flour (eg Caputo Classico)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Cups hot water (from the tap – not boiling)

METHOD

Mixing and Proving

  • Using a whisk, aerate the flour by giving it a quick dry whisk before measuring and placing in your mixing bowl. This helps to get an accurate measurement.
  • Add yeast, salt, oil to the flour.
  • Let the hot water tap run until the water is as hot as you can get it then add hot water to the flour, yeast, salt and oil.
  • Mix well with a spatula until all is well combined. It is a wet dough, so it will look more like a thick paste than a dough at this point.
  • Cover with a beeswax wrap or tea towel and secure a dinner plate or saucepan lid large enough to fit over the bowl as an extra seal. Leave in a draught free place for 6 to 8 hours. It won’t hurt if you have to leave it a little longer.

Baking

  • Preheat fan forced oven to 220C and place a piece of baking paper into the clean bowl ready for resting the dough after shaping.
  • Generously flour a clean work surface and with floured hands turn out the dough onto the surface.
  • Working quickly, stretch the dough out into a large long rectangle.
  • Fold the dough over itself in thirds by bringing one end of the dough to the centre and folding the other end over the top. It’s a bit like folding a letter to pop into an envelope.
  • Repeat this process about 5 – 10 times. As you fold, it the dough will become more resistant. Keep trying though until you really can’t stretch it anymore.
  • When you have stretched and folded as much as you can, pick the dough up and with your fingers, push the corners under with your fingers to shape into a ball.
  • Place the dough, seam side down, into the baking paper in the bowl and cover and rest for 35 minutes for a second prove.
  • Place the cast iron pot with the lid on into the oven and heat for 35 minutes while the dough rests. After this time, with oven mits, take the pot out of the oven and immediately close the door to prevent too much heat escaping.
  • With a blade or sharp knife, score a semi-circle into one side of the dough which will encourage the dough to rise while baking.
  • Working quickly and using the excess baking paper for leverage, transfer the dough and paper to the hot pot and clamp the lid back on. Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Take the lid off and bake for a further 20 – 30 minutes or until the bread is well-tanned, blistered or even a little charred along the score. Don’t be afraid to take it a little further to get the good colour and crunchy crust.
  • Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour or overnight covered with a tea-towel.

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