By Chris Siciliano
Making delicious, rustic bread with the no-knead method is about as easy as it gets. However, as with anything, using the right equipment and best ingredients will help ensure your bread turns out like a professional's time and time again.
FLOUR - All-purpose flour works but bread flour is better. Stay away from pastry flour, which is great for cakes and cookies but not so good for bread. If you can afford it, spring for King Arthur or Bob's Red Mill. Both are widely available in normal, non-specialty grocery stores. Neither company bleaches or bromates their products, which is better for you in the long run.
YEAST (BRAND) - My preferred yeast is Saf Instant Yeast. You probably won't find this in the grocery store but you can easily order it online. I buy it in one-pound packages, keep a small jar in the refrigerator and freeze the rest. A small package of Fleischmann's or Red Star, both common in grocery stores, will suffice if you only bake occasionally or don't want/need to keep pounds of yeast around.
YEAST (INSTANT OR ACTIVE?) - I prefer instant or "rapid rise" yeast because it doesn't need to activated beforehand. In other words, you can mix it in with your other dry ingredients. Active yeast, on the other hand, should be dissolved in a small amount of water to get it going. I say "should" but I've thrown it without dissolving and it seems to work fine. For best results, follow the directions on the package.
DUTCH OVEN - A Dutch oven or cast-iron pot is the recommended baking vessel for no-knead bread for two reasons: heavier pots retain heat and trap steam. Seasoned cast-iron Dutch ovens work great for bread and are relatively inexpensive. I can't seem to keep them from rusting so I prefer enameled, which cost more initially but don't need to be seasoned. Both will also last a lifetime if you care for them properly. Choose one with at least a 5-quart capacity.
DUTCH OVEN (KNOB) - Be forewarned, the plastic knob that comes in the lid of some enameled pots can fail at the kind of high temps called for with no-knead bread. You can buy a metal replacement knob or make your own with a screw, nut and washer. Simply removing the knob and leaving the hole open is not recommended because steam will escape, and trapping steam is half the reason you're using a Dutch oven to begin with. In a pinch, you can fashion a temporary plug from aluminum foil.
PARCHMENT PAPER - The trickiest part in the original no-knead recipe is transferring the dough from the towel in which it rises to the pot in which it bakes. You may want to forget the towel altogether and use parchment paper instead. Since parchment can withstand relatively high temperatures, it can go directly into the pot with your dough. The process: shape the dough into a ball, lay it down on a square of parchment, then cover with a mixing bowl to keep dust and drafts away. When the dough has finished rising, drop the whole thing, parchment and all, into your preheated pot.