Did you know you can shape the dough for no-knead bread into a baguette instead of a round loaf? The dough for a no-knead recipe will look like a shaggy mess at first. Once it rises the first time, it will be sticky. That 18-hour rise is one of the reasons this bread requires only a little yeast.
When you remove the dough from the bowl, some of the strands will stick to the bowl. That’s OK. When you turn the bread out onto a lightly floured work surface, it will come together. It’s at this point, the second rise, that you can shape it however you want (baguettes, rolls or round loaf).
If you want flavorings, mix in shredded cheese or fresh herbs before the second rising.
Rolls, baguettes or smaller loaves will take less time to bake, so keep an eye on them. Cover them with foil during the first part of baking. The goal is to bake it until a crisp, golden brown crust develops.
To shape into baguettes, use a bench scraper or sharp knife to portion out the dough into desired sizes.
Press out into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Fold the top third over the dough. Then fold the bottom third up over the top, similar to folding a business letter. Now, fold over in half and seal the edge. Shape into a torpedo-like shape.
A couche is a floured linen resting place for the shaped dough. King Arthur Flour, kingarthurflour.com, says a “couche gives baguettes chewy, crunchy crust.”
You place the shaped dough on the floured cloth and bring up the cloth along the side of the baguette to hold it in place. You can place several baguettes side by side. Once the baguette rises and is ready to bake, remove it from the cloth and onto a baking stone or sheet.
You can make your own couche using a clean, non-terry kitchen towel and something to keep the dough from spreading flat. I’ve set it up using boxes of foil and plastic wrap. A metal baking baguette pan, available at most kitchen stores, can work in the same way without using the cloth.
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COMBINE flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
LIGHTLY flour a work surface and place the dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest about 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 (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put the dough seam side down on the towel and dust it with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover it with another cotton towel and let it rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
AT least a half hour before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot that can take a 450 degree temperature (cast iron, enamel such as a Le Creuset Dutch oven) in the oven as it heats.
WHEN the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up; 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 the pot with the lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
NOTE: We used a 4-quart Le Creuset pot to test this recipe, removing the knob on the lid before using. If you make rolls, they’ll take 20 to 25 minutes to bake. Smaller loaves and baguettes will take 25 to 30 minutes. Yield: 1 1/2 pound loaf