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Easy Ciabatta Bread

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© 2014 Helana Brigman
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The below column will appear in the Louisiana State Newspaper, The Advocate, for my column, “Fresh Ideas.”  This recipe for Easy No-Knead Bread is an ever-expanding take on my love of Jim Lahey’s My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method (Norton, 2009).  You can buy the book on Amazon here, or read my previous review of his book here.

Helana

Perhaps I’m a purist, but there is such a thing as fresh, beautiful bread. No, not the industrial loaves packaged in sleeves at your local supermarket, but real bread with deeper flavors and crispier textures. Part dense and part light, good bread conceals its fluffy white insides beneath a golden sturdy crust. Slice into this kind of bread, and you will actually hear the crust crackle under your knife.

Fortunately, fresh bread is incredibly easy to make. Since 2008, I’ve been an avid believer in a baking trend called the no-knead method developed by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. The Lahey method uses a no-knead, bread-in-a-pot technique consisting of four ingredients and a cast iron pot such as a Dutch oven. The trick is to prepare the bread dough with very little yeast, allowing time to do the work for you. Once the dough sets up, bake your bread inside a covered pot in a very hot 475F oven. 40 minutes later, the bread will be fresher than any loaf at your store (and well worth the wait).

While many bakers still propose more traditional baking methods that include natural starters, scales and specialized equipment, Lahey’s technique is a wonderful introduction to baking bread at home with a fraction of the effort.

The best part about easy, no-knead bread? Your bread has no preservatives, lost nutrition or lost time. The first step requires 60 seconds and the results are truly beautiful bread.

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Easy Ciabatta Bread

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 40-45 minutes

Ingredients:

*3 cups bread flour, sifted

*1 tsp. coarse salt

*1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

*1 ½ cups cool water (55-65F)

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT NEEDED:

*Dutch oven or similar cast iron pot

*kitchen thermometer

1) In a large bowl, mix together four, salt, yeast and water until fully combined. Cover and rest overnight, at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours.

2) When dough has risen, sprinkle flour over a clean surface and turn dough ball onto surface. Knead ball lightly until just covered with flour and dry to the touch (do not over-knead). Return dough to bowl, cover and rest for two more hours.

3) Preheat oven to 475F and add cast iron pot. Preheat pot for 30 minutes.

4) Remove pot and uncover (be careful, it will be very hot) and transfer dough to pot. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.

5) Remove bread from oven and uncover pot. Bread should be golden brown and almost done. Return bread to oven and bake uncovered for an additional 10 to 12 minutes. When bread is desired color of brown, remove from stove and transfer bread to a cutting board, resting for ten minutes before slicing.

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