Bread 2.0

We are big proponents of no-knead bread recipes. Home cooks can easily and quickly bake fresh breads in their ovens and call it artisanal. Our first adventure in no-knead bread baking was inspired by America’s Test Kitchen and Mark Bitman. This time around, we’re experimenting with the Artisan Bread in Five technique along with a new, easier way to bake the bread, thanks to a little blurb we found in the back of a recent edition of Cook’s Illustrated. We’ve also used our new sourdough starter, which we’ve named Madonna, though we have no idea why we named it after her. We like her music and everything, but, well… it was the first name we thought of and well, when you think about, it sort of works.

The bread bakes in a Dutch oven placed in a cold oven for almost 90 minutes. One unfortunate side effect comes as the oven gets hotter and the aroma of freshly baked bread fills the kitchen. Then when the lid is removed for the final 30 minutes of baking, the whole house literally smells like a french bakery. Quelle horreur!

A traditional round, or French boule, is a loaf made of nothing but all-purpose flour, yeast, salt, and water. This technique requires no kneading, so prep time is the time it takes to measure and mix with a spoon or a fancy, but cool, bread whisk. And then you wait. The wet dough proofs in a large container in the refrigerator 24-48 hours. It will age well and can proof for as long as two weeks. The perfect type of bread for the procrastinator in all of us.

The idea here is to prepare enough dough that you’re able to pull it out as needed, which then is shaped and baked while the rest of the dough waits patiently in the fridge until you’re ready for your next loaf. This recipe gives you enough dough for about 4 small loaves, or two large loaves with enough to start another batch. Instead of cleaning out the container, add more homemade starter with water and whip it together with an emersion blender.

It’s a great idea for those of us who believe crusty bread is a daily requirement. Even better if you care about your food budget. And for the busy home cook, you get a huge reward for not a lot of effort.

Once the loaves are cooled, they can be sliced and stored in the freezer until you’re ready to toast them, which is the superior method to making toast, according to the New York Times (and we agree).

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Adapted from: The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes two loaves, approximately 2 pounds each.

Recipe can be halved or doubled.
1 lb. 8 ounces water, room temperature
8 ounces homemade starter
1 lb. all-purpose flour
1 lb. whole wheat flour (or a combination of flours rye, barley, etc.)
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 tablespoon sea salt
Cornmeal and additional flour for the baking pan

In a large 6 quart mixing container add the water and homemade starter. Mix together until blended.

In a large bowl, weigh out the flour(s) then add the yeast and salt. Whisk together. Add the flour to the water and mix with a wooden spoon or baker’s whisk until everything is mixed together. No need to knead the dough.

Place the lid on the container and leave at room temperature for up to 2 hours or straight into the fridge for a slower proofing and more sour flavor when baked.

It will rise and then sink in on itself as it sits in the refrigerator. That’s normal. Just be sure to never punch the dough down as you work with it. It will deflate, resulting in a flatter, denser loaf.

When you’re ready to bake a loaf, uncover the dough, sprinkle top with flour, grab or scoop about a pound, or two of dough (described as about a grapefruit sized piece) out of the container using your hand or a pastry scraper. Be sure to dust your hands with flour to help prevent sticking. Gently pull the edges of the dough into a ball, pinching it closed. Set the dough ball smooth side down into a bread proofing basket lined with a clean muslin cloth and dusted with flour.* Liberally dust the bottom of the bread with cornmeal. Cover with the edges of the cloth and allow to sit at room temperature for 90 minutes.

When ready to bake, uncover the bread and invert a Dutch oven pan over the top of the basket, so that the basket now fits inside of the pan. Quickly and gently flip the basket and pan over. Remove the basket and the cloth. If the cloth sticks to the dough, use a little more flour with the next loaf.** Using a serrated knife, slice three slits across or one long slice down the center. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and place it into a cold oven, then crank up the heat to 425F. It will take 20 to 25 minutes for the oven to come up to temperature, and then once to temperature it needs to bake for 30 minutes. About 50 minutes total. After that time, remove the pot’s lid and continue baking until the bread is a dark golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped, approximately 20 to 30 more minutes.

Turn loaf out onto a wire rack with a kitchen towel under it to catch all the toasted flour and cornmeal. Let it cool completely before cutting, at least 2 hours. The loaf should make a nice crackling sound while it cools and rests.

*this is giving us problems and we haven’t figured out the best method, but we’re hopeful!

**Alternately, as you’ll see in our photos, a piece of parchment paper can be used as a sling.

***we’re currently experimenting with eliminating the parchment all together and instead using just a dusting of cornmeal. The results have been very positive, but we’re lazy fucks and still need to photograph the results.

****if you pull the loaf out of the oven too soon, like we did on our first attempt (as one can see from some of the pictures) and it’s under baked, crank up the heat to 425F and place the loaf in the center of the oven on a rack for 20-30 more minutes, or until nice and toasty (better picture, too).

Sourdough Crackers

We’re snackers. Always have been. So when a dear friend shared a batch of her sourdough crackers, we were hooked. And since our appetites for carby treats are boundless, that meant making our own at home.

The dough, on its own, produces a delicious cracker. But adding herbs and spices gives you lots of room to experiment, customizing the taste of a batch of crackers to pair with whatever works. We’ve experimented with dried herbs d’provence (a favorite), cumin and smoked paprika. We’ve also played with the fats and flours in various batches, all delicious.

Feeding a starter means discarding some of the old to make room for fresh flour. It’s a lot of starter to discard over time. Using the “throw aways” to whip up crisp, crunchy batches of crackers makes so much sense when you consider the cost of a package of specialty crackers in our local grocery stores. More than that, there is no substitute for the delicate flavors of fresh-from-the-oven anything when the alternative is something that has been packaged, shipped and displayed for weeks or months.

We’ll be sharing more of our adventures in sourdough bread making. In the meantime, we’ll just park this here in hopes it inspires you to make your own sourdough crackers. The starter couldn’t be simpler. Simply mix flour and water, cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and walk away. Time and the natural yeasts in the air will do their magic. If you want to see where our starter “recipe” comes from, check out the kitchn‘s take on the sourdough starter. We took the cracker recipe from King Arthur Flour.

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Sourdough Crackers

[Adapted from King Arthur Flour]

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup rye flour
1/4 cup barley flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unfed (“discarded”) sourdough starter
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (or other fat like olive oil or coconut oil)
2 tablespoons dried herbs of your choice, optional (we like herbs de provence)

Oil for brushing

Course salt (such as kosher or sea salt) for sprinkling on top


Mix together the flour, salt, sourdough starter, butter, and optional herbs to make a smooth(not sticky), cohesive dough.

Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a small rectangular slab. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a couple of hours, until the dough is firm.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Very lightly flour a piece of parchment, your rolling pin, and the top of the dough.

Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough to about 1/16″ thick on the parchment, or basically as thin as possible. The dough will have ragged, uneven edges; that’s OK. Just try to make it as even as possible.

Transfer the dough and parchment together onto a baking sheet. Cut the dough into 1 1/4″ squares; a rolling pizza wheel and metal ruler works well here. Pull up the scrapes and wrap in plastic wrap to refrigerate for 20 minutes, then repeat the following steps above.

Prick each square with the tines of a fork.

Lightly brush with oil and then sprinkle the salt over the top of the crackers.

Bake the crackers for about 16-20 minutes, until the squares are starting to brown around the edges.

When fully browned, remove the crackers from the oven, and transfer them to a cooling rack. Store airtight at room temperature for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.

Yield: about 50-100 crackers