Rustic artisan bread made easy

And now for something completely different (i.e. un-paleo)- bread! I think when most people consider a no-grain diet/no-sugar, the thing that they think they could not live without is bread. And I agree that bread would be difficult to give up, especially as a French-American woman. However, at the risk of sounding snooty about French bread, it would be much easier for me to give it up while living in the US than while living in France. Here in California, I just cannot find bread that’s on par with the bread you can get at any boulangerie in France. I guess I’m just spoiled in the bread department. I’m told that things have vastly improved since my mom moved here almost 30 years ago, and I’m sure they have. Now you can actually find baguette, rustic loaves, and even pretty good imitation “Pain Poilane” at Trader Joe’s (called, “Pain Pascale”). For the most part though, the good bread can only be found at more expensive stores or bakeries. For example: the day after I returned from Paris, I decided to stop at the Santana Row bakery, Cocola, to pick up a baguette to have with all of the yummy cheeses I brought with me. The baguette that would have cost me 0.90 € cost $3.00. Even with a poor currency rate, this was over double the price of the French baguette. PLUS, it wasn’t good. Anyway, enough with the bready rant.

I have always been the type of person who tries to recreate things at home that would generally be left to the professionals (think, macarons). Bread is no exception. I’ve made many whole wheat sandwich loaves, but never thought it would be possible to make an artisan-type loaf without some serious research and time investment. Well the New York Times proved me wrong on this one. An article in November of 2006 featured a No-Knead bread recipe, adapted from a recipe used by Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street Bakery. I actually saw this article when it first came out, thought about trying it, and figured that this “no knead” phenomenon was probably too good to be true. So I never tried it out. I came upon it again in a William-Sonoma catalog and finally decided to take the plunge.

How can a loaf of bread be “No knead,” you ask? Well here is the short answer: Gluten development is one of the necessary components in making bread. There are 2 ways of developing gluten. The first is by kneading the heck out of the dough, and the second is by waiting a really long time for the gluten to develop on its own. Most bread recipes use a combination of the two, and this one simply chooses the second option.

Since the dough for this recipe must rest for 12-18 hours during the first rise, I suggest making it the night before. Basically, all this recipe requires is a little more planning than a kneaded loaf. I won’t repost the recipe here, since I really haven’t changed anything from the New York Times article. The only thing I would suggest, if you plan on serving the bread with a savory dish, is to add some chopped up fresh rosemary (or other fresh herbs) when you’re first mixing the dough. It gives the bread a nice flavor. Once you get a few successful loaves under your belt, try substituting some of the all-purpose flour with other types of flour such as whole wheat or rye.

Overall, I really must give a tip of the hat to Jim Lahey for sharing this amazing and incredibly simple recipe. My very first loaf came out perfect (a triumph I cannot claim for my other bread-making endeavors). He makes delicious bread accessible to anyone with a dutch oven and a little time, and for that, I say “Thank you!”

5 thoughts on “Rustic artisan bread made easy

  1. Richard Nikoley

    Good bread (and of course you're right about France, me having lived there) was absolutely the hardest thing to give up — that, & chewy pizza.

    But, I'm long over it, and, I can occasionally indulge in a little. Of course, that's going to be with a particularly pungent cheese — think Munstere, Roblechon or a particularly bien prete Camebert, having sit out for days — and a decent Bordeaux chaser.

    Thing is, people here think the French gorge on bread, and they don't.

    You'll never see a French person ruin their dinner by munching down on 2-3 pieces of bread, whether dipped in oil/balsamic, or spread with butter.

    Americans would be horrified with the way many french take a small piece of crust and lay first a large mound of sweet butter, followed by an even larger mound of cheese. No such thing as spreading it.

  2. Julie

    You're definitely right about how much (little) bread the French actually eat. It's present at almost every meal, but almost never a precursor to the meal. It's just meant to sop up tasty sauces, or to hold a nice hearty piece of cheese. Today, after picking up my parents from the airport, we were very happy to taste some of the cheeses they brought back without any bread at all. We did open a nice bottle of Merlot to pair with it, though.

  3. Georgia

    I've made this bread too a couple of times and LOVE it. And it's SO easy for someone like me who isn't very experienced in the kitchen!

  4. Julie

    Georgia: I totally agree that this bread is very attainable to the everyday cook. And for such a good result, too! What a good cost:benefit ratio! Haha…okay sorry, too many personal finance blogs for me.

    Thanks, Jackie! I love the recipe you posted about making creme fraiche. I've made fromage blanc and yogurt, but never creme fraiche. I think it's time to start, though. 🙂


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