Friday, February 20, 2009

Easy bread recipe

I spent at least a year making whole-wheat bread by hand (mixing, kneading, shaping loaves, etc., taking about 4-6 hours) when I first moved to Toronto. First to save money, then because the process just became a habit. I'd make about 4 loaves of whole wheat bread every two weeks, freezing half the batch.

But many diabetics can't enjoy bread like they used to, though. At least I can't. Eating two slices of toast, whether it's whole wheat or multi-whole-grain, sets off a carb craving cascade. I've recently tried a bran bread (19 carbs per slice less 5 g insoluble fiber) and, while it is satisfying if I ALSO eat servings of fruit and yogurt, I still have to hold myself back from buying a chocolate bar, Sun Chips, banana bread, or salted peanuts for a morning snack. White bread (like my beloved foccacia) sends my blood sugar soaring over my meter's limit to measure it.

Can I live without bread? No. Can I buy a loaf and keep from gorging on it? No. Can I find a source of single servings? No, of course not. So I keep trying to find a bread I can eat, somewhat enjoy, and not finish in a half a day. And so I'm trying Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, the original that Mark Bittman is promoting with his quick-start-finish adaptations. Note: I didn't like Bitmann's recipe or method that much, but I might have deviated too much from the suggested recipe.

Another item I haven't tried yet is the mix-ahead artisan bread (you can get a basic recipe from their website at but you have to buy the book to get all the good info). This recipe lets you create a sour-dough mix that you keep in the fridge (another no-knead one) and pull just the amount of dough you want to bake for the morning or evening meal. It's quite a bit more time to make than the suggested five minutes, but it's worth a try when store-bought artisanal breads (like my beloved foccacia) cost $5 or more per loaf.

Anyway, here is the Jim Lahey version I found online and finally baked today.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water

Mix ingredients together in a large bowl until combined into a shaggy dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.
Flour a work surface. Scoop the wet dough, which will be dotted with bubbles, onto the flour. Fold twice, deflating it, and let rest for 15 minutes. Don’t worry if it sticks a bit; just scrape it off.
Sprinkle with flour as needed to handle, and shape dough into a saggy ball. Let rest on floured surface for another 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 450. Place heavy cast iron, enameled cast iron, Pyrex or similar lidded pot in oven. Heat pot for at least 30 minutes.
Carefully tip dough into hot pot. Sprinkle with salt or seeds as desired, place lid on pot, and return to oven.
After 30 minutes, uncover pot. Bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until browned as desired. Cool on rack.
Don’t be surprised if you start the second loaf before you’ve finished the first. A few more tips from Peg Carmen: Resist the urge to cut it until completely cool. Store on counter or wrap in paper until cut, and then in plastic. Do not refrigerate. This additive-free bread is best enjoyed within 24 hours.


Erica said...

You should take a look at Nancy Baggett's kneadlessly simple bread book. Maybe some of her recipes will make the no-knead method more likeable for you. Here's her website It has a recipe archive, so you can try out some of her recipes. There is also a link to her blog. Maybe she can help you out with finding a bread recipe that is suitable for you. Happy Baking!

KarenInTo said...

Thanks for the link, Erica. It was Mark Bittman's version of the no-knead bread that wasn't up to par. Jim Lahey's original, which takes much more time to rise but only as much time to mix (less than 5 minutes) is excellent! I am looking for flour combinations (whole grain wheat, oat bran, oat flour, rice flour, soy flour, etc.) that have a lower glycemic effect.