So here's a radical opinion: the no-knead bread that's seemingly swept the culinary world by storm this fall/winter is not actually a great favorite of mine. Partly it's an unfair prejudice (my first try left me with a stupidly ruined cast-iron pan) and partly I'm just a big old philistine who doesn't really care about crispy crusts and the open crumb The Ones In The Know seem to value over everything else. I like small-crumbed sandwich bread. I like it with lots of crunchy bits. I like it straight out of the oven, with (gasp) reduced-fat margarine, and I like it toasted the same way. I like it even when it's not the least bit airy. Hell, I like the dense Finnish rye breads, where heavy is the whole point.
I'm not saying the no-knead isn't pretty good - it's perfectly acceptable as artisan breads go. And it's certainly very pretty. Mostly, I just didn't find it any less fussy than regular kneaded bread. Besides, kneading is a lot of fun.
Possibly this is just a quirk of chance or whatever, but I've never made bread that didn't, when coming out of the oven, fill me with happiness. Bread that didn't look very nice, yes. Bread that didn't rise as much as it should, sure. Bread that spread more than it rose, most definitely. But they were still good.
Just like this Honey-Butter French Bread from epicurious that I stumbled upon this week. It's not exactly perfect - I kind of hate how the crust looks - but still making-you-overeat yummy. Normally I like working with fresh yeast (I love love love the texture and the smell and everything about it), but I didn't have the energy to think about conversions, never mind walking over to the shops (the freezing -19°C weather didn't help) to get some. Hence the slavish following of a recipe that had a lot of rave reviews. (Does anyone else have problems cooking from books these days? I tend to go all "but how will I know if it's any goooood?" a lot.)
This is a very very white bread - not something I'd go for usually, even if it IS good. But I had some leftover soup and the recipe called for it to be served with white bread, and I have something in the works for Sunday lunch that requires white bread, and mostly I just wanted to bake something to heat the apartment a bit (SO COLD). And for all of those things, this was a very good choice. (Now if only I hadn't devoured half a loaf in one sitting. Ugh.)