Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
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No-Knead Artisan Free-Form Loaf
3 cups lukewarm water, about 100F
1 pkg regular or instant granulated yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 1/2 Tbs Kosher or other coarse salt (can be decreased to 1 Tbs to taste)
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, measured by the “scoop-and-sweep” method
cornmeal or parchment paper for the pizza peel
In a 5-quart container, mix yeast, water and salt. Add the flour, then use a spoon, stand mixer, or high-capacity food processor to mix until uniform. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours. The dough can be shaped and baked the day it’s mixed, or refrigerated in a lidded container (not airtight) for up to 14 days. The dough is easier to work with after 3 hours refrigeration. Prepare a pizza peel with cornmeal or parchment paper. Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour. Cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough. Cover the remaining dough and refrigerate for baking loaves within 14 days. Sprinkling with more flour to prevent sticking, shape a smooth ball with your hands by gently stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating as you go. Shaping should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds. Place dough on prepared pizza peel and allow to rest 60 minutes. Loaf may not rise much during this time. 30 minutes before baking, preheat a pizza stone near the center of oven to 450F, with a metal broiler pan on a low rack. When the dough has rested for 60 minutes, dust the top liberally with flour, then use a serrated knife to slash a 1/2-inch-deep cross. Slide the loaf off the peel and onto the baking stone. Protect oven window with a towel, pour 1 cup hot water into broiler tray, and close oven door. Bake about 30 minutes, or until crust is richly browned and firm to touch. Allow to cool completely before eating.
Wet dough stores well in the refrigerator, up to 14 days—this is the key to saving time.
When shaping, use lots of flour but let most of it fall off the ball as you’re shaping
Use an oven thermometer—most home ovens are off by 50 to 75 degrees
For a more open “crumb-structure,” let the shaped loaf rest for longer, up to 90 minutes after shaping
To store longer than 14 days, freeze the dough for up to a month.