Summer Adventures in Bread Baking

I have been a terrible [non-existent] blogger of late. A rash of family visits and general summer laziness are to blame. But, that doesn’t mean that the kitchen adventures have been lacking. Far from it. Several weeks ago, I discovered a recipe for the most incredible loaf of bread you will ever have the good fortune to make in your own kitchen. It’s a variation of Jim Lahey’s revolutionary (oh, yes) No-Knead Bread. If you haven’t heard of No-Knead bread, you should know that it’s the easiest thing on earth: a very wet dough with minimal yeast gets mixed by hand (no kneading required, hence the name), cooked in a super hot cast iron pot in a super hot oven, and comes out like the crustiest fancy pants bread from a fine bakery. No lie.

The only difficult part of making No-Knead bread is forming the loaf and getting it into the steaming hot cast iron pan (I’ve used a cheap-o cast iron dutch oven from Target as well as a 6 qt. Le Crueset French oval dutch oven, and they work equally well). At some point in my No-Knead bread journey, I discovered a great trick for forming the dough into a nice loaf (use LOTS of flour) and getting it into the pot (form the loaf on parchment paper and put the loaf and the paper into the hot pot). Here’s what it looks like:

dough formed into a round loaf, dusted with cornmeal and oat bran

dough formed into a round loaf, dusted with cornmeal and oat bran

The recipe I used for this bread called for a nice poppy seed, sesame seed, garlic powder, onion powder, salty topping, which I’m sure is amazing. But, I omitted it, because sometimes the kiddos aren’t crazy about lots of seeds on their bread crusts. And I was worried that the flavor might be a little overpowering: I wanted a savory loaf without too much garlic flavor. Here’s the dough—and parchment paper—being put into the HOT cast iron pot:

the bread dough, parchment paper and all, placed into a HOT cast iron pot

the bread dough, parchment paper and all, placed into a HOT cast iron pot

And, then, 45 minutes later—my sweet Lord in heaven—this emerged from the oven:

the finished loaf: nicely cracked on the top

the finished loaf: nicely cracked on the top

I can’t stop staring at. See what I mean by fancy pants crusty bread? Trust me: it tastes as good as it looks.

one hot loaf of bread cooling on the kitchen counter

one hot loaf of bread cooling on the kitchen counter

Here is a delicious summer lunch with slices of this glorious bread for my culinarily (is that a word) spoiled children:

summer lunch: leftover grilled chicken drumsticks with carrots, cherry tomatoes, plums and nice slice of homemade bread with butter

summer lunch: leftover grilled chicken drumsticks with carrots, cherry tomatoes, plums and a nice slice of homemade bread with butter

Thank you to Joy at Braisen Woman for this fantastic and creative take on Jim Lahey’s bread.

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