Why does modern life seem to involve so much unnecessary labour? Is it because we have a deep need as humans to feel useful? Work = purpose, whereas idling = useless.
But as life is so busy these days surely we should take the easy option when we can – especially when it produces the same or similar results.
I have long been a fan of the no iron clothes washing method, whereby I take garments out of the dryer before they’re completely dry and hang them on coat hangers for the wrinkles to fall out with no effort.
And in recent years we’ve been trying the no dig gardening method at the allotment and so far it has produced equivalent and in some cases better results for much less work.
Than last week I was listening to Nathan Myhrvold, author of ‘Modernist Bread’, on Radio 4’s Food Programme and he said that you really don’t need to knead bread to produce a good loaf.
I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear this (that’s how sad I am). I just had to put it to the test.
So I made Ben’s standard loaf but just skipped the kneading part. And what do you know, it worked just fine. The finished loaf looked a little bit rougher but the texture and flavour were excellent and possibly even better than usual.
Now this method does mean that you need to leave the dough to rise for a lot longer (8-10 hours) but this fits in more conveniently with a standard working day. Bung all the ingredients together quickly in the morning (without kneading) and the dough will be ready for its second proving (and baking) once you return from work.
PS. I can vouch that it works on pizza dough too (basic recipe here) just skip the kneading part and leave to prove for 8-10 hours.
PPS. Of course the really easy option would be to buy a factory made loaf from the supermarket or a pricey, artisan one from your local deli, but nothing beats homemade, especially when the effort to reward ratio is so high.
Ben’s bread (the no knead version)
Makes one large loaf
- 900g of strong bread flour (mainly white with 200-300g of spelt or wholemeal if you like)
- 12g of salt
- 6g of easy bake yeast
- 550ml of water
- (Optional) A small handful of seeds of your choice e.g. sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, poppy
Add all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Bring together with your hands until well mixed together (use a wooden spoon if you prefer).
Leave in the bowl covered with cling film to rise. How long this takes will depend on the temperature in your house but it is likely to need at least 8 hours if it’s just sat on your work surface, although longer is fine and may well be necessary if it’s a cold day.
Once it has at least doubled in size, briefly knock back the dough with your hands and tip the mix into a greased bread tin (ours is 28.5cm long, 13.5cm wide and 7cm deep).
Leave to rise in the tin for about another hour. It is difficult to be precise here but the dough needs to reach just above the top of the tin.
Preheat the oven to 220oC or 230oC if, like me, you like a really golden crust and put a tin of boiling water in the bottom of the oven to create some steam (this also helps with the crust formation).
Bake for 18 minutes at 220oC/230oC.
Then remove from the tin and bake for 17 minutes at 180oC.
Leave to cool before slicing.