One of my favourites on Instagram (and real life), Jess, has kindly agreed to share her recipe for a loaf of bread that doesn't require any kneading. For a non-baker like me that sounds too good to be true but it is an actual thing! I'll leave it to Jess to explain more.
A version of this bread shot to online fame more that a decade ago now, after it was featured in the New York Times' cooking pages but don't be like me and waste time with well-meant intentions of trying it out one day, you'll only kick yourself the day you finally get round to following the simple recipe.
In fact, to call this a recipe is a bit of a joke really, since all it takes is to measure out the ingredients, stir them together, let the science happen and then bung it all in the oven; and voila! You will have a perfect, crusty loaf of bread to enjoy smugly.
The only equipment needed is some sort of ovenproof lidded dish: a heavy-based cast iron pot, a Dutch oven, a terracotta or stoneware casserole pot, or even a glass Pyrex dish, will all work perfectly.
Makes one large loaf (halve quantities for a small loaf)
4 cups strong bread flour (approximately 600g)
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp easy fast action yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
2 cups warm water (approximately 400ml)
1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt and mix well.
2. Put the yeast and sugar into a jug and add the water, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
3. Pour the liquid into the bowl, mixing until all of the flour is incorporated. The dough will be rough and shaggy and quite sticky.
4. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave at room temperature for anywhere between 12-24 hours. I usually bake after around 12 hours, as I tend to make the dough the evening before I need bread, but I have often baked after less than 12 hours - a good indication that it's ready is a dough that has doubled in size, with a flat, bubbly surface. You could try leaving for varied lengths of time to see if your results are different.
5. Pour your sticky, gluey dough (using well-floured hands and a spatula to help) out onto a lightly oiled baking sheet or board of some kind and, using more flour to stop it from sticking, fold it a few times onto itself and shape it into a round. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to prove for a second time while you preheat your lidded pot. Turn the oven on high to 240c/465f for 30 minutes.
6. Now it's simply a case of getting the proved dough into the scorching hot dish - be very, very careful as you do this! Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes and a further 15 minutes uncovered. Best eaten fresh, it will be so tempting to cut straight into it, but try to leave your loaf several minutes before slicing.