Friday, March 27

The most beautiful smell in the world

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This recipe has been sitting in my online recipe file for, well, quite some time now. So yesterday I decided "today's the day!" Except that there was no bread flour left. One trip to M&S later ("this isn't just bread flour, this is prime, organic bread flour, from gold plated wheat..." though somehow still not as good as the stuff I order through my veg box, which travels all of about 15 miles from field to pantry.) I had the only ingredients you ever really need to bake a loaf: flour, yeast, salt, water and time.

I measured and mixed as directed, though my dough didn't look quite as wet as it normally would be, left it alone all night, then this morning Ishaped it, preheated my trusty Le Creuset and baked it. And now, it's sitting in the kitchen, filling the whole flat with the most beautiful smell in the world, the aroma of fresh-baked bread.

No-Knead Bread (from Steamy Kitchen)

3 cups strong white flour (bread flour)
1/4 tsp instant/ easy blend yeast
3/4 tsp salt (I prefer flaky sea salt like Maldon)
1 1/2 cups warm water

Ovenproof, lidded casserole dish or similar

Mix ingredients in a large bowl, stirring until it comes together. Cover with plastic/ a clean teatowel/ your special bread-making cloth (yes, I have a special cloth I use just for covering the bread bowl - it's a lovely blue-and-white striped cotton napkin) and leave overnight.

Flour your worktop and, using wet hands, scrape the dough out onto it. Pull the edges of the dough into the centre - not enough to call it kneading, just enough to give you a nice neat round shape. Now flour a cloth - that nice fine cotton napkin (or teatowel) will do just perfectly - and drop the ball of dough on to it. Wrap the cloth around it & leave it alone for a couple of hours.

Ninety minutes into that couple of hours, put an appropriate pan into the oven to preheat to 230C (450F). I used an 8-inch (or thereabouts) Le Creuset casserole - you need something of about that size, and which has a lid. Once the pan is hot, drop the ball of dough in (carefully - don't forget the hot part!) stick the lid on and pop it in the oven. Bake for half an hour, take the lid off, then bake for 15-20 minutes longer. The finished loaf should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

It should be eaten as soon as it is cool enough to cut without collapsing, with as much fresh butter and jam as it can hold!

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