In all the years of writing this blog, the most popular post ever has been the one I wrote about No-Knead Artisan Bread. This method, popularized by Zoe Francois and Jeffrey Hertzberg, revolutionized homemade bread baking. Instead of making up a batch of dough every time you want to bake bread, you make up a large batch of very wet dough and let it do a long, cold fermentation in the refrigerator - no kneading, no fuss. You can store the dough in the fridge for up to two weeks, tear a hunk of dough off and make bread whenever you feel like it. A variation of this method was also developed by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. Suddenly, it seemed, everyone was making homemade bread with these methods. In the five years since I wrote that post, I've learned a few things and tweaked the recipe a little. I thought it was time to do an update.
Zoe and Jeffrey's approach is to make a very wet dough, let it rise and then let it sit overnight in the fridge. You then shape a piece of the dough, let it rise and then bake it on a pizza stone in the oven. They liked to place a cup of water into a pan beneath the rack with the bread, creating a little steam for the crust. In Jim Lahey's version, a smaller batch of wet dough is worked up and allowed to rise about 18 hours then wrapped in a towel to rise again and baked in a heavy cast iron or ceramic pot. Both methods are terrific. I like making up a larger batch of dough so I can keep it in the fridge and just make bread or rolls whenever I want. I was baking my bread on a pizza stone but then tried Lahey's version of baking it in my Le Creuset pot. I really liked doing it this way and that's how I've been doing it for a while.