As someone who’s always been interested in what might be called the effort-to-reward ratio sweepstakes, I have to report to you the newest entrant among the very best candidates: the Jim Lahey no-kneed bread method. If you’ve already got an enameled cast-iron dutch oven — I have a Copco one from the 60s — then you’re ready to roll. I would recommend investing in a decent digital scale so that you can easily measure the ingredients by weight. I’ve discovered that it takes 4 minutes to mix the ingredients for the first rise, 3 minutes to punch down and prepared for the second rise and 1 minute to put the risen dough into the pot to bake. This is almost certainly the biggest pay-off I’ve even had from 8 minutes of cooking!
Here’s the cover of the book Lahey put out after Mark Bittman had alerted the world via his Minimalist column in the Wednesday New York Times food section:
Here’s the list of ingredients for the cheese version of the bread:
And here’s the finished product:
Nice moist, chewy crumb and one of the toughest crusts you’ve ever seen:
Here’s the beginning of the Pancetta Bread:
The recipe could not be simpler. Happy baking!
Update (2/25/10): Of the various varieties all with basically the same formula, I now prefer the olive bread made with twice the amount of olives called for in the recipe (I use 1 1/2 cups). I do think it benefits from a little additional salt!