RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—I love good bread—fragrant, chewy, fresh bread. My Mom made white bread or oatmeal bread (yum) frequently when I was little, and she would let me finish kneading a small loaf and put in a few drops of food coloring as I was doing the final shaping; then, when you cut the finished bread there were spots and swirls of pink and blue. I’ve never quite forgiven Wonder Bread for having colored spots on its bag and no colors inside the bread. What a gyp!
These days I leave the artificial colors out and use whole grain flours for my bread—on the rare occasion that I actually make it. My wrists don’t like kneading, and making traditional-method yeast breads doesn’t often fit into my active schedule. I’ve never been too impressed with bread-machine bread, either. So when I saw an article last fall about a couple of smart folks—Jeff Hertzberg, MD, and Zoë François—who had developed a nearly foolproof system for making no-knead bread dough in big batches, storing it in the fridge, and baking portions of it whenever you wanted a nice, fresh loaf, I was very curious. Would it really work? Was the bread really as good as they said it was? I had to try it for myself.
I’m delighted to report, yes, it does work and yes, it is really, really good!
I started with their basic Whole Grain Master Recipe, which is from their second book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients (Thomas Dunne Books, 2009), and then tweaked the ingredients and tips based on my own trial and error to make my bread organic. This recipe makes four one-pound loaves, and you can halve, double, or triple the recipe to match your family’s bread-consumption habits.
5½ cups organic whole wheat flour (try “white whole wheat” if your family isn’t used to whole grain)
2 cups unbleached organic all-purpose flour (don’t substitute bleached)
1½ Tablespoons granulated yeast
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt (adjust to taste)
4 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten
4 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F)
Note: Whole grain flours go rancid and turn bitter-tasting quite quickly at room temperature, so shop at a store with rapid turnover or one that keeps its whole grain flours in the cooler, and either buy only as much as you will use up in a few weeks or buy in bulk to save money and store what you don’t use right away in the freezer to keep it fresh. You can save money by buying yeast by the pound rather than the packet and storing it in the freezer in an airtight jar.
Tools of the trade:
• Large, lidded container (5 quarts is a good size for a single recipe’s worth). I use a stainless steel pasta pot with a vented lid because I don’t like to put food in contact with plastic.
• Cookie sheet covered with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper, or, if you have a pizza stone and a pizza peel, use those
• Metal baking pan that will hold a cup of water (do NOT use a glass pan)
• Cooling rack.