In The Possessed, Elif Batuman recaps a sensible argument she once made against the methods of MFA workshops, which act "as if writing were a matter of overcoming bad habits--of omitting needless words." Although I've never sat around a workshop table, I've spent the last decade murdering my darlings so assiduously that I sometimes worry no one is left, darling or despised; dog paddling so desperately through my email that I've forgotten how to swim; stalking and eliminating needless words so zealously that I'm no longer sure any words are needful at all.
What, for instance, can I tell you about bread that you don't already know? I've made some good bread lately. I applied no-knead technique to another recipe familiar to me, which you'll find below, and it worked like a charm. And here's Oliver Strand in the Times, telling us how to do it for pizza. Bookmark, please.
Nigel Slater's Really Good and Very Easy White Loaf, from Appetite, adapted to the (almost) no-knead method
In a big bowl, whisk together 4 cups (17 ounces) flour (I like King Arthur bread flour), 2 teaspoons salt, and a generous 1/4 teaspoon instant/bread machine yeast. Stir in 1 1/2 cups water. If there are still patches of dry flour, stir in more water, a tablespoon at a time, until all the flour has been incorporated into the mass of dough. This could take 2-4 tablespoons or even more, but don't worry--you will see when it is right. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a dishtowel and leave to rise for 12 hours or so.
After this first rise, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about a minute. Put it on a silicone baking mat, a piece of parchment paper, or a floured baking sheet and dust the top of the dough with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and dishtowel again and leave to rise for 1-2 hours, until it has supposedly doubled in size (I can never tell, can you?). Preheat the oven to 500F. You do not need a baking stone for this bread to turn out well.
After the second rise, slide the silicone baking mat or parchment paper right onto a baking sheet without removing the dough. Nigel says to tuck the dough, which will have spread quite a bit, back into a neat, high ball, being as gentle as possible. (I always resolve not to carry out this procedure, since I fear I am not gentle enough, and then I always end up doing it anyway, since I think perhaps it is meant to let some air out of the dough ball. I flour my fingers and try to tuck the edges of the dough underneath the whole, worrying all the while that I'm ruining the bread. It has not gotten ruined yet.) Use a pastry brush to brush any excess flour from the baking sheet, silpat, or parchment paper. Bake at 500 for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 425 and bake 25-30 minutes more. Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting.
The crust is less than perfect on the second day, which is no pity, as this bread makes most excellent toast. In fact, in the past when I have come across some especially tasty butter, I have made this bread in order to enjoy it as fully as possible, first on the warm bread and then on toast.
You can also use half bread flour and half white-whole-wheat flour. It will still be good and definitely not punishingly whole wheaty, but it is not quite as irresistible as the all-white, all-bread flour version.
Bread is good for your soul; even if it fails to sweep out every last angst-bunny, making and eating and sharing it can't help but make you feel contented and even a little proud.