A few years ago (around 2006) the world of bread-baking and bread-loving food bloggers was positively shaken and forever changed by a revolutionary and wonderful no-knead bread by Jim Lahey, a baker from New York who decided to share with the world his incredibly simple and yet marvellously effective recipe.
"So easy that a 4-year old can make it!" was Lahey's description of his beautifully crusty concoction (you can see him here in a video in which he explains how to make his fantastic bread together with Mark Bittman of the NY Times).
Everybody in food blogging land baked it, changed it, improved it (or tried to), and enjoyed it. Nobody was immune to the charm of this incredible bread made in a cast-iron pan!
Nobody but me. Since a few days ago I used to just sporadically make my own no-knead ciabatta based on a recipe I found on an Italian blog (Cookaround), which I always use during my cooking courses. Then the "baking bug" which had seemed to totally ignore me until now (I never really had the wish to bake anything before a few weeks ago when I started thinking about this new spelt bread of mine) bit me and now I'm experimenting with flour, yeast and other ingredients.
Better late then never? Who knows.
What I do know for sure is that this bread is incredibly easy and SOOOOOO good that I'll make it again and again and again!
The ingredients are really simple, including some time and a bit of patience: the first raising phase lasts at least 12 hrs (longer is even better) but you can make the dough before going to bed and leave it to raise on a warm spot away from drafts until the morning after. The texture will be very stringy and sticky but don't get discouraged by it: you will add about 50-70 gr. more spelt flour after the first raising phase and then leave the dough to rest for another 1,5 hr.
It's important to dust your hands with flour really well and to use a large dough spatula to lift the very soft dough so that you can drop it really fast in the hot cast-iron pan. If it's not perfectly round, don't worry: the dough will adjust itself during baking time, raising further and creating a beautiful structure: crunchy on the outside and soft, slightly moist and beautifully alveolated inside.
For tips on how to handle the dough watch Jim Lahey's video (see link above).
You'll find more pictures under my recipe.
TIPS: use Taggia olives (the beautiful little black olives from my birth region Liguria) preserved in oil since the oil will give the dough extra smoothness and taste.
The mixing of the basic ingredients can be simply done with a fork. Once the dough is coarse but already formed you can add olives and herbs and mix a little further with the fork.
The cast-iron pan (with lid!) I used has a diameter of about 19-20 centimeters. If you only have larger pans make twice as much dough.
Enjoy your baking!
No-knead spelt bread with Taggia olives
300 gr. organic spelt flour + 100 gr. extra for adding later & dusting
3 dl. lukewarm water
15 gr. fresh baking yeast (or 5 gr. dry yeast)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1-2 twigs of fresh rosemary or some dried rosemary or oregano, finely chopped
2 handfuls of Taggia olives with a little bit of their preserving oil
Sift the flour in a big bowl to avoid lumps.
Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and add to the flour. Mix with a fork, then add the salt and briefly mix further.
Add the coarsely chopped olives and the finely chopped rosemary (or oregano) and mix a bit longer.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to raise overnight on a warm spot.
Using a big dough spatula remove the dough from the bowl, lay it on a working surface well dusted with spelt flour and sieve about 50-70 gr. of extra flour over it. Gently mix it in the dough without pressing too much to make the mixture is a little less sticky, then dust the upper part of the dough with more flour and cover with a tea towel.
Leave to rest for 1,5 hr.
About 20 minutes before putting the bread in the oven preheat the oven to 270°C and put the pan (not the lid) in the oven to get really hot.
Once the dough has rested and the pan is really hot lift the dough from the working surface and let it fall into the hot pan.
Cover with the lid and put in the oven for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for 10-15 more minutes (check how it goes from time to time).
Lower the heat to 210°C and bake for 10 more minutes.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool off in the pan or on a grill.
It will come out of the pan really easily.