When writing about mashed potatoes I did say that I’d have to prove that my food taste is not solely focused on germanic potatoes and sausages by sharing some recipes indicative of a broader taste palette. But – well, it is again something from the German/Austrian taste world I want to share today: delicious bread, with just the right firm texture to cut wonderfully thin slices, yet still moist inside and with a slightly nutty taste and firm crust, evoking lovely childhood memories of having a slice of warm bread with some good butter on it, and maybe some freshly cut chives.
I have been baking bread for a long time, but this is really the best so far! I have not changed my ingredients, but my method of baking and it is astonishing what a difference it makes! The trick is to bake the bread in a covered pot, cast iron, enamel, or pyrex.
Quite a while ago I had seen the New York times video about Mark Bittmann’s no-knead bred and thought it quite inspiring, but was not sure if it would also work for more whole grain and denser breads. But then I stumbled upon the no-knead bread again on a wonderful Austrian food and recipe website, esskultur, and also found a more rustic recipe version (sorry, only in German), and then there was no stopping me anymore. Of course enamel cast iron pots look really nice, and I could imagine them creating an even better crust, but I was surprised how well it turned out in a simple Pyrex glass form! So don’t let yourself be stopped from making this delicious bread if you don’t have a cast iron covered pot – I did let myself be held back by that fact. Oh my, all those days I missed out on this delicious bread because of the cast iron pot hump…
In the original no-knead recipe they use very little yeast and let the bread rise for a long, long time. I diverged from that method a bit by using more yeast and less rising time.
For the oz measurements: please measure by scale and not use the liquid oz measurements.
125g/4oz barley flour
125g/40oz rye flour
250g/8oz whole grain spelt flour
3 Tsp active dry yeast
1 Tsp salt (or a little more if you prefer saltier)
1/2 Tsp sugar (optional)
coriander, fennel, caraway & anise seeds
324-425 ml warm water (depending on the flours you end up using, you might need more or less water)
1 covered, heat resistant pot, either cast iron, enamel or pyrex. I used a glass pyrex form, about 9″ in diameter when measuring from corner to corner. The amount of flour I used fits that size perfectly.
Mix the flour, salt, active dry yeast, and optionally a little sugar in a mixing bowl. Grind the spices in a mortar – maybe the photo helps with the amount I used, but in general spices really are something to play with to find exactly what amount you like best – and add to the flour mixture.
For adding the water, start with pouring in about 325ml, mixing everything together with the dough hooks of a hand mixer. Then add up to a total of 425ml if the dough needs more water, but be careful and only add bit by bit, since the moisture changes quickly. Continue mixing it all together for a few minutes. Mix just long enough that everything is blended, and no loose flour left. The dough should be fairly moist and a little sticky. If you think it needs a little more water, go ahead and add a little. Then cover the dough with clear wrap and let the dough rise for 2hours, if possible in a warm place.
With a spatula “stir” the dough a little bit in the bowl to reduce it in size, then transfer onto wooden board or other work surface covered with a fair amount of flour. Cover your hands with flour and fold the dough in 4 times from 4 directions and press down a little, sort of like you would do with a sheet of paper to form and envelope. Then carefully shape into a ball. Turn around, so the folded in side is facing down, sprinkle with flour if needed and cover with a clean kitchen towel for another 30 minutes or so. In the meantime preheat the oven to 480°F, putting the pyrex form with lid in from the very beginning. Having the baking form heated will prevent any dough from sticking to it later. Once the oven has reached the designated temperature, quickly take out the pyrex or cast iron form and transfer the dough into it, putting the lid back on before putting it in the oven put in the oven.
Baking time in the following segments:
10 min at 480°F with covered lid
30 min at 440°F with covered lid
10 min at 440°F without lid to get a brown crust
After taking it out of the oven I let it cool on a cooling rack with brief detours to the cutting board to get a few slices of the still warm bread with some butter and a pinch of salt!
I hope you enjoy, and if you like it, please let me know!