One bowl. Two hands. Three cups of flour and a little patience. That’s practically all you need to make this rustic loaf of no knead bread that delivers a crunch and a perfect taste of Sunday morning. That and – of course – a little cinnamon, salt, sugar, raisins, cranberries plus a sturdy pot that can withstand the blazing 450 degree temperatures of an oven for forty-five minutes.
The technique employed to make this country “boule” is inspired by Jim Lahey of New York’s Sullivan Street Bakery. He knocked the oven mitts off of home bakers back in 2006 when he introduced it – people were amazed that they could effortlessly create a loaf in their kitchen that practically rivaled the corner boulangerie in France. There is no kneading or fuss involved in this bread’s preparation, just the mixing of dry ingredients together with a cup and a half of water. The dough does all of the work on its own as it sits out on the counter overnight developing, rising, and even fermenting a wee little bit.
Eighteen hours later it is ready for your relaxed return. The soft, pliable mass only needs you to tip it out onto a floured surface to shape into a round before sending it off to the oven to bake to crispy, golden perfection. And you know what else? Besides being easy to make and delicious smeared with cream cheese or butter, it also makes for a lovely holiday present. Wrap it up, tie it with a bow and deliver it to neighbors or loved ones in a beautiful shiny gift bag. This week I’m doing just that: baking and sending an extra loaf to send to my oldest, a college girl out west who’s pining for a little taste of her Vermont home to land in her mailbox.
Effortless Homemade Cinnamon Raisin Cranberry Bread
Prep time: 20 minutes Total time: 13-24 (!) Hours
3 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour is best)
2 teaspoons salt (I prefer to use kosher salt in baking)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast (Saf Instant is wonderful)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
1 1/2 cup water
Place flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon and yeast in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Now add raisins and cranberries and stir to incorporate.
Pour in the water and mix until the ingredients are thoroughly combined into what is known in the baking trade as a “shaggy mass.” It may look a little dry but don’t worry, it will be fine.
Cover your bowl with a piece of plastic wrap. Now let it sit on the countertop for 12 to 18 or even 24 hours (Confession: I have let it sit on the counter for up to a day with just excellent results).
After an adequate amount of time has elapsed (12 hours or more), place your dutch oven with the lid on it in a preheated 450 degree oven for 30 minutes. This step is essential as it gets the pot really hot before putting the dough in it and will cause a great crust to form.(Note: I have the best results when I use a 9″ Dutch Oven. The circumference seems just right to allow for a little extra height in the finished loaf).
While the pot is preheating, turn out your prepared dough onto a moderately floured surface (1/4 cup should suffice).With floured hands, shape your dough into a smooth ball, tucking the edges underneath to create a nice round. Invert your bowl and place it over the top of your prepared “boule” to prevent it from drying out while you wait for the pot to finish pre-heating.
Now carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven, remove the lid and place them on a heat-resistant surface. Remove the bowl to reveal your shaped round. Take a sharp knife or a bread slashing tool and score the top of your prepared dough (either in an “x” marks the spot design or a swirl or in three lines — or whatever shape strikes your fancy just as long as your cuts are about 1/8″ deep).
Taking care not to burn yourself, place the dough (scored side up) in the pot and cover with the lid. Bake covered for 25 minutes. Now remove the lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes. After 40 minutes it should be a beautiful golden brown and ready to remove from the oven (if you have a bread thermometer make sure it reads 190 degrees or higher).
Empty the loaf out onto a cooling rack and let it rest for at least half an hour before slicing. If you rush and cut into it, it won’t set correctly and will appear undercooked and gummy. But if you wait and are patient, it will be absolutely perfect!