This recipe was passed on to Copywriter Nikkitha by a friend of a friend over WhatsApp, and she’s sent it to many other beginner bakers since (all over WhatsApp). Here, she's expanded and adapted the recipe using tips she learned from the blog Alexandra Cooks and Jim Lahey's famous No-Knead Bread recipe. There’s no kneading required. The most difficult part is waiting for dough to ferment overnight, which develops a slightly tangy flavour, and waiting again for the bread to cool before slicing.
Makes 1 500g loaf
500g strong flour
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp instant yeast
400ml room temperature water
Option 1: Replace 200g of strong flour for a wholemeal flour like spelt or rye
Option 2: Add 90g mixed seeds—55g for mixing into the bread, and 35g for sprinkling on top before it goes in the oven.
1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and yeast together. Add 350ml of water gradually until a chunky, thick dough forms and it is just barely wet throughout. Gradually add the remaining water tablespoon by tablespoon, stopping if the dough seems like it won't form into a ball. (A very scraggly-looking ball, but a ball nonetheless.) Cover bowl with a tea towel and let it rest for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature. It will look big and loose when risen, with bubbles, and will deflate as you handle it.
2. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan and place a lidded cocotte in the oven. This creates a mini oven that ensures a beautiful crust. While the cocotte heats, take two forks and pull the dough away from the edges and towards the centre to deflate, rotating the bowl as you go. Scrape or invert it onto a large piece of parchment paper, large enough to fit in your cocotte with lots of overhang. Cover with the bowl the your dough was resting in or a floured tea towel, and let it rest for another 30 minutes at least. Don’t worry if the ball isn’t perfect; the cocotte will help shape it.
3. Remove the cocotte from the oven, taking care because it is very hot. Remove the lid, gently place parchment paper with the bread inside the cocotte, and cover. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Then remove the cover and bake for 12 minutes, until the exterior is golden brown. Bread is ready when the bottom sounds hollow if you knock on it. (Keep baking in 5 minute increments if it is not there yet.) Do not cut the bread until it is completely cool, as that will affect texture. Enjoy!