So, I had this plan to try to eliminate bread from my diet over the next few weeks, or at least really cut back on it. Next to ice cream, freshly baked bread, spread with a little bit of European-style salted butter, is my biggest food-related weakness. Well, that plan has just been postponed. Something possessed me to try a very interesting looking recipe, which I had torn from the pages of my latest Williams-Sonoma catalog, for a knead-free rustic lemon-rosemary bread. What's worse is that I decided to make this irresistible-looking recipe during the week that Eric , who I can usually count on to polish off the majority of a loaf in one sitting, is overseas. Oh well, at least I have the dogs to share it with.....
Very important: This recipe needs to be started the day before you plan to eat it. The dough must sit for at least 12 hours, possibly more, during its first rising. Because the recipe only contains 1/4-teaspoon of yeast, it takes awhile to grow to the correct size. I just wouldn't want you to be disappointed if you started this recipe with plans to serve it the same day and then realized that you couldn't--that's always a bummer.
The directions for this recipe couldn't be any easier and this would be a great "starter" bread baking experience. You don't need to worry about over or under-kneading, and the ingredients are things that most people have on hand in their pantries. Baking the loaf in a hot, covered, cast-iron pot results in a crisp and golden exterior and a soft, slightly chewy interior. The lemon and rosemary make it extra fragrant, and I just know that it won't last long. I guess I'll just eliminate ice cream instead! Here are a few extra tips for this bakeshop-worthy bread:
- Feel free to substitute whole grain flour for a portion or all of the white flour. You may need to add a few tablespoons of extra water to achieve the desired tacky texture after mixing.
- Try mixing up the flavorings in the recipe. Instead of rosemary, use fresh or dried thyme or Italian seasonings, and mix in some chopped sun-dried tomatoes or black olives. Add some raisins and chopped, lightly toasted walnuts. Substitute orange zest for the lemon zest and mix in some dried cranberries and pecans.
- This recipe calls for active dry yeast, as opposed to rapid rise yeast. Be sure to check that you are adding the former to the mixture or the rising time will be incorrect.
- If you don't have a round cast-iron pan, then you can place the dough in a round cake pan to help shape it as it bakes. You can also bake it in a large loaf pan or "free form", without a pan.
- The bread it best eaten within a day of baking, but it will keep for 2-3 days, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.
"No Need to Knead" Lemon-Rosemary Bread
Makes 1 loaf
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Zest of one lemon
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, yeast, salt, rosemary, and lemon zest. Add 1 5/8 cup water, and stir until blended (dough will be sticky). Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature, 70F degrees, until the surface is dotted with bubbles, 12-18 hours.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and sprinkle with flour. Fold the dough over itself once or twice, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest 15 minutes.
Using very little flour, shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a smooth cotton towel with cornmeal. Put the dough, seam side down, on the towel; dust with more cornmeal. Cover with another towel and let rise until the dough is more than double in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.
At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, put a 2 3/4 cast-iron pot in the oven and preheat the oven to 450F degrees. Remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over, seam side up, into the pot. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the loaf is browned, 15-30 minutes more. Set the pot on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, gently turn the pot on the side and release the bread.