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Almost No-Knead Bread

From Breadmaking, Simplified
Update: May 2012
Our No-Knead Bread 2.0 (January/February 2008) presented a foolproof way to make bakery-quality loaves in a preheated Dutch oven. The heavy covered pot, which preheats at 500 degrees for a half-hour before the dough is added, acts like a miniature version of the steam-injection ovens used by professional bakers: The lid traps steam released by the loaf for maximum rise (without kneading) and a shatteringly crisp crust. But after further experimenting with the recipe, we discovered that this already simple method can be made even more so by eliminating the 30-minute preheating step and starting the loaf in a cold oven. When we started the process in an unheated pot in a cold oven, the loaf rose just as high as the standard hot-oven version did, and the crust browned beautifully. Why does this cold-oven method work just as well as the original? Because the same process is taking place, but in slow motion. Instead of blasting the loaf with heat and steam right from the get-go, we let those elements build gradually. Eventually, the loaf achieves the same amount of “spring.” We did need to make two more adjustments to the original recipe. First, after you put the dough in the oven, simply set the oven dial to 425 degrees (rather than beginning at 500 degrees). Second, don't start your timer until the oven has reached 425 degrees. After that point, bake for 30 minutes with the lid on and then 20 to 30 minutes with the lid removed.

Why This Recipe Works

For a no-knead bread recipe that would produce a loaf with a consistent shape, we strengthened the dough by lowering the hydration and giving it the bare minimum of kneading time (15 seconds). To give the bread more flavor than the standard no-knead recipe, we added acidic tang with vinegar, and a shot of yeasty flavor with mild-flavored lager. When we started the baking process in an covered pot, the lid trapped released steam, creating a springy loaf. By finishing the baking with the loaf uncovered, we created a beautifully browned crust.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
2/3 cup (4 2/3 ounces) plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Instructions

Makes 1 large round loaf

We prefer whole milk in this recipe, but 1 or 2 percent low-fat milk may be substituted. Do not substitute frozen cherries for the fresh cherries.

1. Adjust oven racks to lowest and upper-middle positions; place 12-inch skillet on lower rack and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place cherries, cut side up, on sheet. Roast cherries on upper rack until just tender and cut sides look dry, about 15 minutes. Transfer cherries to medium bowl, toss with lemon juice, and let cool for 5 minutes. Combine 2 teaspoons flour and cinnamon in small bowl; dust flour mixture evenly over cherries and toss to coat thoroughly.

2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, vanilla, and salt in large bowl until smooth and pale, about 1 minute. Whisk in remaining 1/2 cup flour until smooth. Whisk in cream and milk until incorporated.

3. Remove skillet (skillet handle will be hot) from oven and set on wire rack. Add butter and swirl to coat bottom and sides of skillet (butter will melt and brown quickly). Pour batter into skillet and arrange cherries evenly on top (some will sink). Transfer skillet to lower rack and bake until clafouti puffs and turns golden brown (edges will be dark brown) and center registers 195 degrees, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking. Transfer skillet to wire rack and let cool for 25 minutes. Sprinkle clafouti evenly with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Slice into wedges and serve.

4. Adjust oven racks to lowest and upper-middle positions; place 12-inch skillet on lower rack and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place cherries, cut side up, on sheet. Roast cherries on upper rack until just tender and cut sides look dry, about 15 minutes. Transfer cherries to medium bowl, toss with lemon juice, and let cool for 5 minutes. Combine 2 teaspoons flour and cinnamon in small bowl; dust flour mixture evenly over cherries and toss to coat thoroughly.

5. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, vanilla, and salt in large bowl until smooth and pale, about 1 minute. Whisk in remaining 1/2 cup flour until smooth. Whisk in cream and milk until incorporated.

6. Remove skillet (skillet handle will be hot) from oven and set on wire rack. Add butter and swirl to coat bottom and sides of skillet (butter will melt and brown quickly). Pour batter into skillet and arrange cherries evenly on top (some will sink). Transfer skillet to lower rack and bake until clafouti puffs and turns golden brown (edges will be dark brown) and center registers 195 degrees, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking. Transfer skillet to wire rack and let cool for 25 minutes. Sprinkle clafouti evenly with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Slice into wedges and serve.

7. Adjust oven racks to lowest and upper-middle positions; place 12-inch skillet on lower rack and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place cherries, cut side up, on sheet. Roast cherries on upper rack until just tender and cut sides look dry, about 15 minutes. Transfer cherries to medium bowl, toss with lemon juice, and let cool for 5 minutes. Combine 2 teaspoons flour and cinnamon in small bowl; dust flour mixture evenly over cherries and toss to coat thoroughly.

8. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, vanilla, and salt in large bowl until smooth and pale, about 1 minute. Whisk in remaining 1/2 cup flour until smooth. Whisk in cream and milk until incorporated.

9. Remove skillet (skillet handle will be hot) from oven and set on wire rack. Add butter and swirl to coat bottom and sides of skillet (butter will melt and brown quickly). Pour batter into skillet and arrange cherries evenly on top (some will sink). Transfer skillet to lower rack and bake until clafouti puffs and turns golden brown (edges will be dark brown) and center registers 195 degrees, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking. Transfer skillet to wire rack and let cool for 25 minutes. Sprinkle clafouti evenly with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Slice into wedges and serve.

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