You Can Make Magazine-Worthy Bread. Seriously.
You will die when you see how easy this recipe is. And it has beer in it!!! Best. Bread. Ever.
I have shared this recipe with lots of friends and family who are now HOOKED. The good folks at Cooks Illustrated really know what is up. This is their recipe, but I’m going to tell you how I make it, and why you should too. Also, lets not do any of this “New Year, New You” crash diet nonsense. I mean really? Everyone should make it their goal to be the healthiest “them” all year round. Carbs are not evil. If you eat a well rounded diet where you incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables, you can eat basically whatever you want. Ok, my New Year’s rant is over.
If you are trying to eat better, that is awesome. Yay you! This bread can definitely fit into a healthy diet. I actually make it with an “ultragrain” flour, which has 30% whole grains, or you can even make it with whole wheat. I did this quite by accident, actually. I’ve been baking a lot so I bought a gynormous sack of flour at Sam’s Club without realizing it was ultragrain. It was labeled “all purpose” so I didn’t even notice. I guess that is kind of the point though, they say you can use it just like you would regular white flour but it’s a lot better for you. So far I’ve used it in basically everything and it has worked awesome! I might never buy regular flour again.
Okay, on to the bread. It’s actually thought that in ancient times bread and beer making went hand in hand, and that beer might be the actual root of some societies. Pretty cool stuff. I think civilizations could have been founded on this bread alone. IT IS SERIOUSLY THAT GOOD. I have made it probably five or six times and it is consistently stellar. The results were so good the first time that I haven’t strayed from my original rendition.
Nearly-No-Knead Bread by Cooks Illustrated (with some LBLF Substitutions/Suggestions)
3 Cups Ultragrain flour (or all-purpose white flour, if that’s all you have)
1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt (I used Kosher)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp room temp water
6 tbsp (3 oz) Yuengling, or other mild lager/ ale
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
You will also need: Parchment paper, and a dutch oven that can withstand 500 F degree heat
NOTE: I always start making this bread the night before, usually a Saturday for its flexibility, as it rises for 8-18 hours. If you are a morning person, by all means do this first thing in the morning. I can barely make coffee in the morning so I’ll stick with what I know, and you do the same. Use a mild ale or lager like Yuengling. I actually keep a six pack in my basement just for this recipe. Don’t go out of your way to buy crappy cheap beer though. If its something you won’t ever drink, don’t waste your money on it. Budweiser does not need your money.
1.) Combine your flour salt and yeast, stirring with a whisk, in a large bowl. Add all of your wet ingredients. CI calls for white vinegar, but I have always used apple cider with great success. Stir until a bizarre looking ball forms. It will not look pretty. If there are some nubbins at the bottom that are not stuck to your ball just use your hands to combine it all. Cover with a cloth (or whatever really, foil etc.) and walk away. Let this guy sit on your counter for 8-18 hours. I have done as little as 8, and as long as 18, and have not noticed a difference.
2.) With a slightly floured surface, knead your dough 10-15 times. I never really count to be honest. Just go with what feels right. Once you have a well formed ball, there will be a sort of “seam” that you can’t close, place that side down onto a large-ish piece of oiled (I used cooking oil spray for this) parchment paper. The piece should be large enough that you can hold onto both ends and drop into a very hot dutch oven. Place in a skillet or bowl. I let mine sit right on top of the oven. Let this rise for another 2 hours. I know, the waiting is hard. It is really the hardest part of this whole process. At around 1.5 hours you can start heating your oven.
3.) Place your Dutch oven (with its cover!) into the oven and start pre-heating it. Crank that puppy up to 500 degrees. EEK! I know, be careful not to burn yourself. This is a seriously hot oven. While pre-heating, drop a little bit of flour over the top of your dough and spread around with your hands (clumps of flour are not so pretty). Use a sharp knife to cut a very shallow 6 inch slit into the top of your floured dough. This will give it a gorgeous artisinal look. Just do it.
4.) Once well pre-heated, drop your beautiful dough into the Dutch oven and re-cover it. It’s okay if some of the parchment paper sticks out. DROP THE TEMP DOWN TO 425 DEGREES! This is important. If you burn your bread at this point you will be super sad. You’ve been warned. Set a 30 minute timer. Once up, remove the cover and bake for another 25 ish minutes. CI says the loaf should register an internal temp of 210 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, just make sure the bread has a deep golden crust as pictured. Move the bread onto a cooling rack. Wait until the loaf is fully cooled before you cut into it, as hard as that might be. It is hard, believe me.
You did it! You now have an incredibly beautiful loaf of bread. Also your house smells ah-mazing. My plan is to make some Avocado Bacon Grilled Cheeses. Maybe with a little sriracha mayo. Avocado is a fruit, right? Clearly I am not on a crash diet…
If you’re looking for more new things to try in the kitchen, one of my favorite (perfectly-named) blogs, thekitchn.com has some great suggestions. TWO of which are making bread, so there! Check it out here!
Wishing you all a very safe and happy New-Year filled with bread-making, beer-drinking and happiness!