Although I helped my mom make bread when I was growing up many, many eons ago, the first time I made bread on a boat was when I was racing half-way around the world in the Clipper Round the World Race. It was on the leg across the North Pacific Ocean from Qingdao, China to San Francisco, USA.
Despite the grueling conditions with winds at times over 60 knots and waves the size of four story buildings, it was the responsibility of the cooks on board (we all rotated and shared that duty) to make sure the crew had fresh hot-baked bread most mornings for breakfast when they came off watch cold, tired and hungry.
After that intense crossing of the North Pacific in winter, the San Francisco to New York City leg was so much easier to bake on, with the seas calmer and temperatures warmer.
Fast forward to today. I stumbled across a recipe for no-knead bread on a cooking blog, No Thyme to Waste, by Ashley Marie and I was intrigued. It would make bread making so much easier while sailing if the kneading process could be left out. The recipe was originally from Jim Lahey (Sullivan Street Bakery) which first appeared back in 2006 in Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist column in the NY Times. The only issue I had with the recipe was that it required nearly 24 hours from start to finish, which is just not practical on a sailboat when underway. Researching further, I came across a video with Mark Bittman and Jim Lahey in which the recipe had been updated, with the rising time cut down to about 6 hours total, much more practical out on the ocean.
Below is the recipe, adapted to fit my and most other boat’s constraints (small ovens). I’ve also slightly increased the yeast (for faster rising time) added white wine vinegar for extra taste (have it onboard) and added a dash more salt which didn’t seem to impact rising time. Although I’ve adapted this recipe to a boat watch schedule, I have tested it multiple times against the original and the taste and texture does not seem to appreciably change.
As a caveat, I should mention to check that the handle on the dutch oven is heat resistant to 450°F, the Le Creuset classic range has black handles which are only heat resistant to 375°F.
Makes 1 14-oz. loaf
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
- 1/4 tsp. white wine vinegar, a few dashes (optional)
- 1 1/4 cup warm water
- Dash of coarse sea salt, to sprinkle (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, yeast and white wine vinegar with 1 1/4 cups of warm water (should not be over 130°F or it will kill the yeast). Stir until blended then cover bowl with plastic wrap and a cotton towel. Let dough rest for about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees if possible.
- After 4 hours, place parchment paper on a counter-top, dust with flour, and place the dough on top. Fold the dough over just once or twice, lift the parchment paper and place dough with parchment paper back in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours (depending on watch schedule on the boat, otherwise longer is better).
- A half-hour before dough has completed its 2nd rise, heat oven to 450°F and put a 3.5 quart dutch oven in the oven as it heats (check that the handle is heat resistant to 450°F). After 30 minutes, remove the dutch oven from the oven (remember its very hot!) and carefully place the dough with the parchment paper into the dutch oven. If desired, you can score the top of the dough with a sharp knife and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until nice and brown. Let cool for 30 minutes to an hour on a rack before cutting. Bon Appétit!
By Greg Kyle