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Parmesan-Black Pepper No-Knead Bread

As the name implies, this homemade bread requires no kneading. See the end of this recipe for some delicious variations. For our Rosemary-Lemon No-Knead Bread, click on the link at left.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese chunks (1/4-inch chunks)
  • Cornmeal as needed

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, black pepper, grated cheese and cheese chunks. Add 1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbs. water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at warm room temperature (about 70°F) until the surface is dotted with bubbles, 12 to 18 hours.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour and fold the dough over onto itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel, preferably a flour sack towel (not terry cloth), with cornmeal. Put the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise until the dough is more than double in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.

At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, put a 2 3/4-quart cast-iron pot in the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over, seam side up, into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. Shake the pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the loaf is browned, 15 to 30 minutes more.

Transfer the pot to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, turn the pot on its side and gently turn the bread; it will release easily. Makes one 1 1/2-lb. loaf.

Variations:
Walnut Bread: Use 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts in place of the cheese and black pepper.

Olive Bread: Use 1/3 cup pitted niçoise olives, 1/3 cup pitted dry-cured olives and 1/3 cup pitted picholine olives, all coarsely chopped, in place of the cheese and black pepper.

Adapted from Sullivan Street Bakery (New York City) and Mark Bittman, "The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work," The New York Times, Nov. 8, 2006.