Back in 2006, an article in the Food section of the New York Times described a revolutionary technique to obtain a fine-bakery quality bread at home, with no tools, no expertise, only excellent ingredients and, most of all, time. Jim Lahey’s was the owner of a bakery on Sullivan Street in Manhattan, and Mark Bittman of the New York Times gave his “no-knead bread” worldwide fame.
Along with bread, Jim is also making and selling pizza, pastries and cookies. Among his specialties, I have selected Stecca, a narrow-shaped delicacy which you’re bound to find entirely scrumptious.
Follow these easy steps and you’ll fill your bread basket with a finger-licking treat.
Yield: 4 sticks of lightly salted bread. Due to the salt on its surface, the Stecca is best eaten within a few hours of baking. In the unlikely event of some of it being left over, simply reheat it prior to putting it on the table again.
Bread flour g 400
Table salt g 3
Fresh yeast g 3
Cool water g 350
Extra-virgin olive oil g 60
Coarse salt g 3
Additional flour for dusting
In a medium bowl, weigh the yeast and dissolve it in the water.
Add the flour and the table salt, and mix it with a spoon until you have a wet, sticky dough. The whole process shouldn’t take longer than 30 seconds.
Cover the bowl with a lid or a piece of plastic cling film, and let it sit at room temperature until it has at least doubled in size, and the surface is dotted with bubbles.
Something like this:
Dust a work surface with flour (you’ll need quite some, but make sure you spread it evenly) and scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the work bench in one piece, using a rubber spatula or, if you have one, a scraper. Fold the dough over itself two or three times and gently shape it into a ball.
Brush the surface of the dough with olive oil. Place a kitchen towel on a large dish or cutting board, dust it with flour or cornmeal (bran will also do), and place the ball of dough on top of it, seam side down (this means that the dough should show the smooth side, just like in this picture). Sprinkle it with more flour or whatever you’re using.
Fold the ends of the towel over the dough and let it sit in a warm and draft-free spot (for instance inside a kitchen cabinet) one to two hours. You’ll know it’s ready when you see it’s almost doubled.
During the second rise, turn on your oven and let it heat as much as it can: 250°C would be ideal, but not all reach that temperature.
Once the dough has fully risen, place it back on the work bench and cut it into quarters with a sharp knife or a pastry cutter. You may do so without removing the tea towel.
Stretch each piece evenly by pulling it gently into a stick shape. Place them on the baking tray (which you will have lined with parchment paper), leaving some space to allow for the last oven spring. Brush your steccas with olive oil and sprinkle coarse salt on them.
Bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on your oven), until their crust takes on a brown colour. Once done, let them cool on a rack for at least half an hour.