Only four ingredients and nature and science do all the rest of the work for you, amazing. Photo / NZH
I spend a lot of time writing, reading and thinking about cooking because it’s my job and I love it. My pink kitchen glasses had however been broken by this long confinement and I had lost all desire to create in the kitchen. Until I ran into people talking about a four ingredient artisan bread.
I was intrigued. I mean the bread is pretty straightforward, but the idea of ââ”four ingredient artisan bread” seemed a little too good to be true. I did some research, pulled out my sieve, shook my head, and decided to do my own experiment. Is it really possible? An incredible loaf, at home, without kneading?
My research has shown me that this concept is not new, there are thousands of variations online and evidence that it dates back perhaps hundreds of years. The mainstream appeal can be attributed to Sullivan Street Bakery founder Jim Lahey, who wrote about its wonders in The New York Times in 2006.
I baked a lot of bread, including meticulously shaped and fed sourdough breads, so this quick, super-convenient approach was a bit of a noodle scraper for me. Firstly, there is only half a teaspoon of yeast, whereas most bread recipes call for at least two, and the only manual work is to make sure that the four ingredients (flour, water) , salt and yeast) are well combined. Time and science would do the rest.
The deciding factor for this bread to be excellent is to allow enough time. I gave mine 16 hours and it was wonderful. I was quite concerned as it hadn’t risen like normal high yeast bread would, but it came out perfectly. The end result was chewy, yet light, with an excellent airy crumb and a hard crust that would rival many sourdough breads.
Tips for baking this bread:
- Add the water slowly, little by little, until all the flour is combined, you may not need it.
- You want the water to be lukewarm, not hot, I’m just waiting for it to be just warm on the inside of my wrist.
- I gave the water in ml because it is more precise, but it is about 1 Â½ cups.
- Don’t worry if it doesn’t look “risen”, when you shape it, you will feel the dough has nice elasticity, which means it’s ready, it should stretch easily, but don’t not break.
- Wait 12-24 hours to give the yeast enough time to absorb the sugars from the flour.
- To shape the dough, grab it with both hands and push the top of the dough up and down with your thumbs, crumpling underneath until you have a nice round ball.
- Remember to slice the top [I do a simple cross. Use a very sharp knife and do it just before it goes in the oven.]
- Use a generously large sheet of baking paper for the second step, as this will make it easier and safer to go into the hot oven.
- A Dutch oven is the best option for this bread, it traps heat and steam which gives the bread its crumb and crust and is the same method most bakers use for sourdough. Not sure another ship would work, but you can try.
- Let cool completely before slicing.
- Feel free to get creative and add seeds like caraway, fennel, sunflower or pumpkin.
Four ingredient artisan bread
You will need
- Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the baking powder and salt then add the water a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until well combined, you may not need of all.
- Cover with plastic and set aside for 12-24 hours, I made 16.
- When you don’t want to wait any longer, form a ball (see tips above) and place it on a well-oiled sheet of baking paper.
- Put your Dutch oven with a lid in the oven and heat 30 minutes at 230 Â° C, while your dough rests.
- Carefully place the bread, using the sides of the parchment paper, in the hot pot, place the lid on and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid and continue cooking for another 10 to 12 minutes until the top is golden brown and the slits you made have formed firm ridges.
- Let cool completely on a wire rack.
That’s it! You will be amazed. I add this one to my weekly rotation. I think it would make wonderful toast but ours didn’t last that long.