I found this book of Jim Laheys at the library and flicked through it less for the no knead part as I really don't mind kneading dough and feeling it all come together and become soft and silky in my hands, but I was attracted to it because of the long rise time. Since Libraries let ne take home more books than I can possibly read, I thought Id throw that one into the pile and give it a go and see what I thought.
The bread is great! I made the basic white loaf and it came out like a "shop loaf"! I was thrilled!
Here's what I did...
Jim prefers that you weigh everything rather than use volume (cups/tblsp) and so far I have weighed the ingredients each time as its really no hardship to do. So I pop the bowl on the scales and tare it to zero and add the ingredients in the order below.
Bread flour : 400gms (3 cups)
Table salt : 8gms (1 1/4 teaspoon)
Instant Yeast : 1gm (1/4 teaspoon)
Cool water : 300gms (1 1/3 cups)
Mix together with a spoon. It should be a tacky dough. If its not, add another tablespoon of water.
Leave it in the bowl and cover for 12- 18 hours and let it rise. I used a plate but you could use a tea towel.
I have been leaving mine for 24 hours and have had no problems with the bread results at all.
After 12-24 hours is up tip the dough onto a well floured bench in one big stringy blob and generously flour your hands. Now shape the bread by bringing the sides up onto the top one quarter at a time.
Then flour a tea towel and place the dough onto the tea towel and leave for another couple of hours - until it retains the indent of your finger when you poke it! if the hole pops out, leave it a bit longer.
Once it has risen again, pop the oven onto 475F or 246C and heat up a cast iron Dutch oven. I simply couldn't lay my hands on one ( I was reluctant to buy one for this experiment) and ended up using a ceramic casserole dish with a lid. Once the dish has been in the oven for about 1/2 an hour, take it out (carefully - its real hot) and upend the dough from the tea towel into the dish. Pop it straight back in the oven.
This has been working for me for the last few weeks and we have been enjoying really yummy bread each day. I did do a free form loaf in the BBQ when we made pizzas and it too turned out well - flat though rather than a dome. The dough is really wet and doesn't hold its shape like kneaded dough's do.
I have been emptying the bowl of dough and making the new one straight into it unwashed - a sort of yeast and sourdough mix...? I have been washing the bowl every few days but wonder if the left over bits would gain a different flavour like sour dough. I suspect with such a long rise time you would probably have some wild yeasts in it anyway. So far there is no difference between an reused and a washed bowl...
Jim recommends that we wait till its cool before we eat the bread. I have to agree with him. The one we cut open before it was cool was a bit "gummy" inside. Once it was cool, the rest of the loaf was fine.
There is a great video on YouTube with Jim and a journalist that gives you a good idea of how it all goes together, but I think the book is better as it gives you more information on what you are doing and why. There are also step by step instructions and photos to follow. Its a six page recipe as there is so much information about what you are doing and why rather than just a 1/2 page do this that and your done.
If you can lay your hands on the book (and a Dutch oven) it wont be long before you are churning out great bread everyday!
Green-ness: 5/5 for producing your own simple homemade food!
Frugal-ness: Worked out at something like less than dollar a loaf to make!
Time cost: 24 hours - or about 10 minutes three times.
Skill level: Beginner bakers!
Fun-ness: Really, really good fun to pull out of the oven and cut open!