This is what you do when once again you’re completely out of hours, and your intention to FOR SURE THIS TIME bake fancy fruit-studded loaves to bring all your friends and neighbours in the days before Christmas has once again fallen flat on its face. Honestly, don’t you know yourself yet?
It occurred to me that the wonderfully easy, rustic and crusty no-knead bread could take on additions like cinnamon and raisins, or herbs and cheese, or figs and walnuts. So I made a loaf, just to see. It fused fast to the pot – something that has never happened before – so much so that I had to chisel and soak its bottom from the bottom of the pan.
So for round two I used a piece of parchment, which worked brilliantly – not only did it contain the floury mess on the countertop, it looked quite charming in the pot itself, especially after the bread had baked and the parchment turned crackly and pale golden. Don’t skip it, unless you love doing dishes.
It turns out this is perfect for after Christmas too – for those midwinter mornings when preheating a large, heavy pot in a 450F oven to bake a crackly round loaf seems like a Very Good Idea.
Fig & Walnut No-Knead Bread
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped dried figs or raisins
1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted if you like
1 tsp. cinnamon (or a good hefty shake)
In a large bowl stir together the flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Add the figs, walnuts and cinnamon and stir to sort of combine – the cinnamon will be streaky. That’s OK. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and let it rest on the countertop for 18-24 hours at room temperature.
The dough is ready when its surface is wet looking and bubbly. Put a piece of parchment on the countertop and scrape the dough out onto it; dust the surface generously with flour and fold the dough over itself a couple times; sprinkle again with flour and cover with a tea towel. (Make sure it’s not terry cloth, which will stick.) Let it sit for another hour or two, or even three or four.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450°. Put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. Pull the pot out of the oven, lift up the dough on the sheet of parchment and drop it into the pot. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until crusty and golden. Remove from the pot and cool on a wire rack, or eat warm.