Once upon a time in Kenya, there was a loaf of bread know as Elliot’s. It was packaged in a waxy translucent paper that you don’t see anymore. Trips to shags (ancestral home) were not complete without a few loaves of Elliot’s and BlueBand. And truth be told, at 4 or 5 pm nothing tasted better than that soft bread spread with BlueBand. And to wash it down, milky tea that smelt of smoke from the wood fire (already sweetened in the sufuria). Ah … the blissful days of childhood.
“Times keep on changing, beauties keep being born”
To quote Sauti Sol’s Soma song, “masiku zazidi badilika … wazuri wazidi kuzaliwa”. “Times keep on changing, beauties keep being born” is a loose translation.
Elliot’s had its hey-day and then came Supa Loaf. And a variety of other loaves. Gone was the translucent waxy paper. Clear plastic packaging was in. What these loaves of bread have in common is they are industrially produced. It is affordable bread.
However, once you have eaten good bread, there is something lacking in industrially produced bread. And this post is about a delicious bread that you can make in your own home!
About this bread
It is a ridiculously simple recipe. This bread makes you feel like an accomplished bread baker even if you are not. Look at those holes! (properly known as alveoli—file that under “useless information”). It is more chewy than the soft industrial bread, and it has a lot more flavour.
Pros of this recipe
It’s crazy simple to make.
It’s just 4 ingredients (no additives).
Con of this recipe
It requires planning because it needs time to develop the strong gluten structure.
How much time?
12-18 hours. I prefer to give it 18 hours. So that means, mix the bread at 11 pm and bake it at 5 pm the following day. Or, mix it at 7 pm and bake it at 1 pm for lunch the following day.
Workaround if you don’t have a dutch oven:
If you don’t have a dutch oven, any oven-proof dish with a tight-fitting lid—without a plastic handle or knob—will do.
Chances are, that metal sufuria (cooking pot) with its metal lid, will also get the job done just fine. Just be sure that it can stand very hot temperatures.
It helps to put a baking tray with water at the bottom rack of the oven. The idea is to create steam in the oven.
Jim Lahey's No-knead Bread
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
In a large bowl combine 3 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon yeast. Whisk together. Pour in the 1 1/2 cups of warm water and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula.
It’s a sticky dough – what do I mean? It comes together as a dough but if you were to work it with your hands, it would stick to your palms and fingers. You want a sticky dough.
Cover the bowl with a plate or clingfilm. Leave it to do its thing on the kitchen counter for up to 18 hours but not less than 12.
You know the dough is good when it has risen and darkened somewhat in appearance (looks a little grey-ish). There are also many bubbles on the surface of the dough. It looks wetter and that’s because it is.
Baking preparation – 20 minutes
Flour your hands really well and sprinkle a little flour on the surface of the dough. Gently remove the dough from the bowl and roughly shape it into a ball. Do not add more flour or knead the dough. If you are using a small pot, place the dough on parchment paper to avoid burning yourself when you transfer it to the pot. Leave it to double in size.
Turn the oven on to 230°C or 450°F. Place the empty dutch oven into the actual oven to heat up for about 20 minutes. (If you don’t have a dutch oven, see the workaround note above.)
When the pot is hot, work quickly but safely. Carefully remove the heated pot from the oven. Lift the parchment with the dough and place it inside. Cover the pot and return it to the oven to bake.
Bake – 45 to 50 minutes
The first bake is with the pot covered for about 30 minutes, or until the loaf begins to get some color. Then, remove the lid from the pot and leave it to bake for another 15-20 minutes. Until it is a rich deep brown.
Once it’s done, carefully remove it from the pot and let it cool. It crackles … listen …