I was browsing buttermilk recipes, looking for a use for the liquid that drained off the ricotta cheese I made last week (most recipes just have you pour it down the drain, but that seemed like a big waste). I knew I could just make pancakes, or really any kind of cake, but I hadn’t made bread in a while, and this recipe, from Suzanne Dunaway’s No Need to Knead is the easiest I’ve ever come across. Seriously, if you think bread is a big production, this is the recipe for you. It takes less than thirty minutes of effort; mostly it just sits around becoming dough, and then bread, all by itself. And the result is just about the tenderest, fine-crumbed sandwich bread I’ve ever eaten, let alone made. It does take a little advance planning, since you need to stir together the sponge the night before. But if you do that before bed, then you’ll have 2 gorgeous loaves in plenty of time for some toast to go with your mid-morning cup of tea.
2 tbsp dry yeast
1/2 c lukewarm tap water
2 c warmed buttermilk (or the liquid that drained off your homemade ricotta cheese)
2 c unbleached bread flour
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp salt
3-3 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp olive oil
Combine water and yeast in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add the buttermilk and bread flour
and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and let ferment overnight at room temperature. It may bubble up and then fall — that’s fine. In the morning, it will be bubbly and fragrant.
In the morning, add the butter, honey, and salt to the sponge and mix well. Stir in flour until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Rub your hands with oil and lift the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Knead once or twice. Now let it sit a minute while you rinse out the mixing bowl with warm water, towel dry, and coat with olive oil. Put the dough in the oiled bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise about 1 hour.
Oil two 8 1/2 x 4″ loaf pans. Divide the dough in half and form each into a loaf. Place loaves in pans, brush with oil, cover, and let rise until the dough reaches the rim of the pans, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450. Bake loaves for 25-40 minutes. Check for doneness by turning one loaf out of the pan and tapping the bottom; if it sounds hollow, it’s baked through. If the loaves are browning too much but don’t seem quite done, cover loosely with foil for the final 5-10 minutes of baking. Cool on a wire rack.