The 5 Perfect Doughs

10 min/24h No-Knead Bread

No kneading is just one wonderful aspect of this bread. It's also delicious! It has a crusty exterior and holes inside like sourdough bread, indicating long, chewy gluten strands.

It’s 10 minutes of work, including cleanup, over a 24 hour period.

By Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York: “Make sure everyone has access to it. That’s the goal.” It was popularized by New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, in 2006.

You will need an oven-safe pot with a lid. It can be glass, ceramic, iron... The bottom diameter can be 15-20cm diameter in any shape. It should be at least 15cm tall but taller is fine. You can use this pot as the "bowl" if you want.

Purchase a very finely milled white flour. In the US this will be called "unbleached white all purpose". In Argentina, it's 1000. In Italy it's 00. In Germany choose the lowest number you can get, in the 400s or 500s, because this number is not the fineness of the milling, it's the amount of minerals in the bread and the higher numbers have too much heavy minerals.

Mix together with your hands (because they are more effective and easier to clean than a spoon). The result may be quite wet and soupy.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 5/8 cups water (that’s 1.5 cups plus 2 tbsp)

1st nap: Cover bowl with lid or a plate. Let rest at room temperature at least 12 hours, but 18 or 24 is fine too. If it's winter and your house is cold, put it in a warm place.

2nd nap: Sprinkle LOTS of flour on a smooth surface (wooden board or clean table is better than a textured plastic board). Dump the very sticky dough from the bowl onto the the surface. Sprinkle a lot of flour on the dough. Fold it over on itself once or twice. Leave it alone for 15 minutes. Wash the bowl immediately with water and a hard plastic scraper. Avoid sponges.

3rd nap: Shape the dough into a ball (or as close to a ball as you can get it, given that it may still be very mushy). As you are tucking the dough into a ball, keep the smooth side up. Leave it alone for 1.5 hours. Cover with a clean smooth cotton or linen tea-towel, if you have one.

Preheat oven AND pot: Put the pot with lid into the oven. Preheat the oven at 450 degrees F (232 C) for 30 minutes.

Carefully take that hot pan out of the oven. Be mindful of the hot lid! Sprinkle a little polenta or rice, quinoa, millet, oats, or any kind of grain into the bottom of the pan to prevent the bread from sticking. Then drop the dough into the pan. Try to turn it upside down on the way from the nap to the pan so that the “seam” from the bottom of the ball ends up on the top of the bread. Put the ¡HOT! lid on the pot.

Bake for 30 minutes. If it’s starting to brown at this point it’s probably done. Dump the bread out of the pan and knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow it’s done. If the bread smells yeasty or if it is not yet brown, put it back in the oven without the pot for another 10-20 minutes. How long is a matter of unpredictable oven temperature and your crust preferences. Check it every 5 minutes until you get to know your oven and preferences. If you want a crisper crust, but it’s already brown when you take it out of the pot, turn the oven off and put the bread back in for a few minutes.

Notes

  • It’s hard to cut the bread when it’s hot, so use a sharp knife and saw gently, but it is delicious ho! Have butter ready.
  • STORAGE: Do NOT put the bread in plastic. Do NOT put the bread in the refrigerator. Store in a brown paper bag, or wrapped in the tea towel on the counter. After the 2nd day, toast for best flavor.
  • PROPER TOASTING: You should feel “twoness” when you gently squeeze the center of the toast. It should feel like souffle on the inside and crispy on on the surface. Before you get to this point, it’s inadequately toasted.

Additions:

  • To make a multigrain bread, use white flour but during Mix, add up to 4 handfuls of any uncooked seeds and grains (wheat berries, rice, buckwheat, flaxseed, quinoa, barley…). They will become soft during overnight 1st nap.
  • If you want to add fresh herbs, olives, caramelized onions, dried fruit, or nuts, stir them into the bowl just before dumping out the dough for 2nd Nap.
  • Raisin walnut bread: add 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour to Mix. add 3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup walnuts just before 2nd nap.
  • Butter bread: Between 2nd and 3rd nap, press dough flat and spread lots of butter on it. Fold in half, push flat, add more butter. Do this 7 times, then tuck the sides under to form a ball. Beware that after making this bread once, your friends will beg and plead for it, and declare their love for you.

Sweet Tart Dough

Many years ago at Pasquini Bakery in Denver that has since closed, I had a blackberry tart that was so good it made my head spin. Of course the blackberries were musty-dusty as they should be, but something was different about this tart.

Both the crust and the filling were much lighter than ordinary custard tart. I examined the pastry cases and did research.

I concluded that the crust was pâte sucrée (which has a little sugar in it). And the light filling was....cannoli filling (mascarpone). I've been making this tart ever since, to rave reviews, with any summer fruit.

But you can use it for any pie crust.

mix: 1 cup flour, 2 tbsp granulated sugar, 1/4 tsp salt.

slice into the bowl: 6 tbsp cold butter

using fingers, break the butter into smaller and smaller pieces. as it mixes with the dry ingredients, it will eventually form a mealy texture. remember to break, not squeeze. this is called "cutting in".

once you have an even meal, dribble water into the bowl 1 tbsp at a time, now squeezing the dough together until it forms a ball. as soon as it's all able to stick together, the dough is done. do not knead or work the dough.

use plenty of flour to prevent this delicate dough from sticking. roll to a thickness of 1/8-1/4 inch. if you are using a tart pan with a removable bottom, roll the dough out directly onto the tart pan so you don't have to move it. if you do have to move the dough, such as into a pie pan, it may break, but you can

repair it by just pushing on it once it's in place.

Summer Fruit Tart

bake the pastry shell at 350 until pale golden. (12-15 minutes)

while it's baking, mix one tub of ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup white sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

remove from oven and place a handful of semi-sweet chocolate in the middle of the shell. return to oven for one minute. remove and turn off the oven. use a butter knife to spread the chocolate across the shell.

let cool (if you are in a hurry, you can cool it in the freezer for about 10 minutes)

spread 1/2 of the ricotta over the tart and then smother with sliced fresh fruit (berries and stone fruit are the best, mango and kiwi are fine too.)

Savory Pastry

for quiches, onion tarts, etc. (this is called pâte brisée)

mix: 2.5 cup flour, 1 tsp salt

slice into the bowl: 1 cup cold butter

using fingers, break the butter into smaller and smaller pieces. as it mixes with the dry ingredients, it will eventually form a mealy texture. remember to break, not squeeze. this is called "cutting in".

once you have an even meal, dribble water into the bowl 1 tbsp at a time, now squeezing the dough together until it forms a ball. as soon as it's all able to stick together, the dough is done. do not knead or work the dough.

use plenty of flour to prevent this delicate dough from sticking. roll to a thickness of 1/8-1/4 inch. if you are using a tart pan with a removable bottom, roll the dough out directly onto the tart pan so you don't have to move it. if you do have to move the dough, such as into a pie pan, it may break, but you can repair it by just pushing on it once it's in place.

Quiche Filling:

some vegetables can be put in raw: asparagus, corn, tomatoes, red onions, spinach. others should be cooked: white onions, leeks, mushrooms, kale, bacon

roll out 1/2 batch of dough and fold into a tart pan.
put the vegetables and cheese if you want into the bottom of the pan

then pour in the following, which you have mixed in a bowl: 4 eggs,1 cup cream (yogurt is even better), 1 tsp salt, pinch nutmeg, pinch black pepper)

bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted comes out cleanly.

Pasta

You may never go back to dry pasta after trying this. Be sure to put a big pot of water on to boil before starting, because that takes as long as making the dough! Put in a bowl: 1 cup flour, 1 egg, 1 tsp olive oil, and a large pinch of salt. (you can actually add as many eggs as you like for more eggy flavour.) Using your hands, mix until the wet and dry are evenly distributed. the result will be sort of flaky and clumpy, but evenly so. Add a tiny bit of water and squeeze the mixture together until it all sticks together. Set up a broomstick or some other vertical thing on which you can hang the cut dough until you are ready to cook it. If you have a pasta machine, take a small piece of the dough (about 1/8 of it) and roll it through the widest setting of the rollers. tighten the rollers and go again, until you have reached desired thinness. We prefer dough done at 5 or 6. if the dough tears in the rollers, smash it up and try again. flouring between rollings will prevent the tearing which happens because the dough is too sticky to go through cleanly. you can use the machines cutters or cut by hand with a knife. You do not need a pasta machine. you can roll the dough by hand with a rolling pin and cut it with a knife. don't worry about having uneven strips, they will look beautiful! Use lots of water and boil the pasta for only a few minutes. you can tell it's done when the color changes from yellow to white.

Favorite simple sauces

  • butter, fresh sliced ripe heirloom tomatoes, crunchy maldon sea salt
  • butter, fresh flat leaf parsley, fresh mint, toasted walnuts (bake about 10 min until they are fragrant)
  • browned butter (cooked until it gives off a toasty smell and turns slightly brown) with a pinch of clove, toasted fresh sage leaves (bake in the oven about 5 minutes until they become brittle)
  • skillet roasted corn, pecorino or parmesan cut with a big grater, lots of black pepper
  • caramelized tomatoes (cooked in the skillet about 15 minutes over medium heat with lots of butter until they are no longer watery and about to stick to the pan)

Pizza

This is closer to a focaccia dough than a traditional pizza dough. it's chewier and saltier, which we prefer.

dissolve 2 1/2 tsp fresh or dry yeast in 1 cup warm (body temperature) water. use the inside of your wrist to gauge the water. if the water feels neither hot nor cold on your wrist, it's close to body temperature.

add 1 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tbsp olive oil, and a pinch of sugar

stir in 2 cups of flour. you can substitute up to one cup of cornmeal. keep adding flour until you can't stir any more.

dump the dough out on a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, keep adding flour to control stickiness. eventually it should not be sticky at all.

for pizza:

put the dough in a bowl oiled with olive oil, turn over to coat. cover with a towel and let rise for 30-40 minutes.

divide dough in half pat into ovals about 1/2" thick.

brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, add toppings.

let rise 20 minutes.

bake at 375 until golden brown on bottom and edges

for focaccia

take a large baking sheet or oven tray and coat with plenty of olive oil. dump the dough in there and spread it as flat as you can.After 30-45 minutes come back for a visit. The dough will be more relaxed than before. Pour a lot of olive oil on it. Push straight down on it with all of your fingers and convince it to spread out onto the whole pan. Leave finger holes on it. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary, salt, caramelized onions, olives... push them down roughly into the dough. Let it rise again as long as possible.

Focaccia is "over-risen" dough, so the longer you leave it the fluffier it will be. You can let it rise for 3 hours.

Bake for 20 minutes until you see some golden brown.