As you know, I love to cook! I wanted to use my love of cooking to spend time with my neighbors so decided to offer some cooking lessons…But what in the world could an American teach an Italian in the kitchen??? Then one day it came to me that they might like to make homemade bread.

I find bread to be one of the least expensive things to make–and there’s nothing quite like warm, fresh bread right out of the oven to go with a meal. Now wouldn’t you love to make bread like this?

With that in mind, I made up a little invitation which I distributed to my neighbors.

When my neighbors, Franca and Fernanda came over on Saturday, the 23rd of January, I asked if they would mind having Larry take photos of our lesson so you too could learn to make the bread on this blog. Since they don’t use the computer, I brought out my laptop to show them recent blog entries.

Franca and Fernanda loved seeing some of my earlier blog entries and were happy to be part of the next lesson…Pane Sensa Impasto or No Knead Bread. This is the easiest bread I’ve ever made! If you’ve never made bread…start with this simple recipe (which you’ll find at the end of this blog). One recipe makes four one-pound loaves. Or it can easily be used to make foccacia, pizza crust or even crusty rolls. Maybe the best thing about this recipe is that you don’t have to bake it all in the first day. You can bake up a quarter of it for supper tonight…and put the rest of the dough in your fridge to bake up fresh at a later day. We find we actually prefer it baked a few days later as the texture is even more rustic and has a bit more of a sour-dough flavor. The dough can be kept up to two weeks in the fridge.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to try it yourself:

The first thing we did  was to put 1 Tablespoon of sugar into a large bowl. This serves as “food” for the yeast, helping it to grow more quickly.

Since Italians don’t use measuring cups or spoons, I just used a soup spoon to measure the sugar.

Next, I added one Tablespoon of salt. The bread if not too salty…but if you’re concerned about having too much salt, you can cut back a little here. I wanted to keep the recipe simple, so kept the measurements of the first three ingredients equal (one Tablespoon each).

Third, I added one Tablespoon of yeast.

This can be dry yeast sold in 3-pack envelopes, jars or even in two-pound packages at Sam’s Club or Costco. I generally just use the normal “active dry yeast” so can’t give you any advice about other options such as “rapid rise yeast ” or “bread machine yeast”.  Though not as common, you can also purchase small cubes of fresh yeast–which is very effective but has the down side of not having as long of a shelf life. I have kept both types (dry or fresh yeast) in the freezer with good success.

Here are the most common types of yeast available in North America…

…and here are the options of yeast available here in Italy…fresh brewer’s yeast or dry, lievito di birra, indicating it is made from the same fermentation process as beer.

Probably the most important thing about making bread is the temperature of your liquid. A warm liquid causes the yeast to grow…but if the liquid is too hot, it will kill the yeast. And if your liquid is too cool, the yeast won’t grow very quickly.

The baby-bath-temperature water is poured over the sugar, salt and yeast.

If you’re 100% certain that your yeast is alive–not past the expiration date–and that your water temperature was warm, but not too hot, you can go ahead and add your flour now. I personally prefer to wait about ten minutes to make sure the mixture is bubbly, indicating that the yeast is growing. It should look something like this:

Next I dumped in a one-kilo bag of flour. (In North America I use six cups.)

Then, I stirred up the mixture with a wooden spoon…

…until the dough looked “shaggy”. It will be too wet to knead. If there are dry patches, where the flour isn’t getting incorporated quickly, add just 1-2 Tablespoons of water and mix together a little longer.

It should only take less than five minutes to mix together.

Next I covered the dough loosely with a lid. You can use a dish towel or a piece of plastic wrap instead, if you prefer.

The dough should be kept in a warm place–a sunny window, near a radiator, etc. for about two hours, or until it has doubled in size. (Sorry, we didn’t think to take a photo of the risen dough…but you probably understand, right?)

Before getting my hands all sticky with dough, I sprinkled some cornmeal on a clean dish towel. (If you don’t have cornmeal, use some flour or bran instead.) This is where I will set the ball of dough to rise…

Next, I rubbed some flour on my hands…the next step is going to get pretty sticky!

Lifting up the ball of risen dough, I pinched it in half…and then in half again, so that I ended up with about a quarter of the dough. At this point the dough is very sticky…

I often drop it into my flour canister or into a bowl of flour to lightly coat it with flour.

This makes is a bit easier to shape.

To form a round loaf, I tuck the edges under, forming a ball. You can dip it into more flour as necessary.

Then I placed the ball of dough on the cornmeal…

…and sprinkled it with more cornmeal before lifting the dish towel over it, so it wouldn’t dry out. After about 20-30 minutes, I preheated my oven to 200 degrees Celsius/400 degrees Fahrenheit. For the crustiest loaf possible, I like to preheat a heavy (i.e. cast iron) pan while I’m preheating the oven. If you don’t have a cast iron pan, or don’t want the bread too crusty, you can grease a cookie sheet or a stainless steel pan and just let the dough rise in the pan, instead of on a towel.

In about 45 minutes, this is what the ball of dough looked like.  Now comes a somewhat tricky part. I would have never believed you could move this risen dough without it falling flat. But you can! With lightly floured hands, I lift up the dish towel with one hand and flip the dough over onto my other hand…

…then quickly and gently moved the dough to the preheated cast iron pan…

…and set it in the hot, ungreased pan…

Voila! It’s a little off-center but it’s in there…don’t be too much of a perfectionist at this point. These are rustic loaves of bread and aren’t supposed to be all nice and even.

I like to cover it with an oven-safe lid. This creates a mini-steam oven inside, resulting in a crustier loaf.

If you don’t want to risk moving your loaf, just place it on a greased cookie sheet or in a greased stainless steel pan, cover it with a dish towel and let it rise for about 45 minutes. Then, place it into the 400 degree oven.

Bake for 25 minutes…if you are using a covered pan, uncover it after 25 minutes. Bake for 10-15 more minutes or until a lovely brown. The bread will slip right out of a preheated, heavy pan…sometimes I even remove it from the pan and set it right on the oven rack for the final minutes. Can you tell I like it crusty? Yum! The texture is usually quite rustic…and it’s always delicious!

Franca and Fernanda each took a loaf home…as well as a piece of dough to bake another day. They both told me later that they were very happy with their freshly baked bread…a first for both of them.

For focaccia, the dough can also be pressed onto a greased baking sheet. let it rise about 20 minutes and then brush it with some olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary before baking for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees F. (I have found this dough is a bit too soft for making pizza.)

To make rolls, with well-floured hands, pinch off smaller pieces and shape loosely into an oblong shape. Rolls made with this dough are a bit flat and irregularly shaped, since the dough is sticky and not intended to be shaped nice and smooth. They are similar to ciabatta rolls…ciabatta means “slipper” and these rolls are a bit flat and irregularly shaped–like a slipper.

I hope you’ll give it a try–the easiest bread in the world, even without a bread maker!

Ciao!

Debbie

No Knead Bread

Yield: 3-4 small loaves, 2 large pizzas or 10-12 rolls

No Knead Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoons yeast
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 C. warm water (about 800 ml)
  • 6 cups bread flour (1 kilo)
  • Cornmeal

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix 1 T. yeast, 1 T. salt and 1 T. sugar into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). If I'm making this outside of the U.S., I use about 800 ml of water with 1 kilo of bread flour.
  2. Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be shaggy, too wet to knead.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours). I've even let it rise overnight on the counter and baked it in the morning.
  4. Shape into loaves, rolls or focaccia and let rise. Or, if you prefer, you can bake just part of the dough and refrigerate the rest, covered, for up to a week. If kept in the fridge, the dough needs to "breathe". I usually just set the lid lightly on the bowl, so air can escape.To shape the dough, flour your hands and sprinkle a little flour on the dough. Pinch off a part of the dough--depending on whether you want loaves or rolls. I find it helpful to drop the whole piece into a bowl or canister of flour and then tuck the edges under to form a loaf or roll.
  5. Place the dough either on a greased, stainless steel baking sheet or on towel sprinkled generously with flour or cornmeal, if you want to bake it in a preheated, covered cast iron pan ( with an oven-safe lid). Baking it in a covered pan helps to form a "steam oven" of sorts so that the loaf is crustier.
  6. 4. Let the ball of dough rise for about 45 minutes*. If you're going to bake it in the ungreased, preheated cast iron pan, transfer the risen loaf from the towel into the pan and cover before baking. Bread risen on baking sheets can go directly into the hot oven once the bread has risen.
  7. Bake in a preheated 400° F (200° C) oven for 25 minutes. (I have baked it at a lower temperature when I had something else baking at 350° F (180° C),¦just bake it longer, until lightly browned.)
  8. When lightly browned, uncover and bake 15 minutes longer or until well-browned. You may want to remove it completely from the pan and bake directly on the oven rack at this point for a darker crust.
  9. Note: Note: Cold dough needs to rise about 1 1/2 hours, instead of just 40 minutes since it needs to come to room temperature first.
http://ciaofromdebbie.com/blog/step-by-step-cooking/no-knead-bread-step-by-step/

Variations:

This dough can be used as a pizza crust. Just press the dough onto a greased cookie sheet and spread with sauce”¦ You can also make the dough into sandwich rolls. The dough is soft but if you flour your hands well, just pinch off a piece about the size of an orange and manipulate it into an oblong roll. Let rise about 30 min. and bake as direct above.

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