Monday, January 05, 2009

Yes, You Can Make Bread

Love artisan breads, but in this economy, don’t want to spend the money? Want to make your own bread but are afraid of the yeast? Want to eat hot, fresh loaves of bread but don’t want to put in the effort? Come over to the yeasty side, my friends.

Al and I have discovered No Kneading Bread. It’s been around for awhile, but we were reminded of it in an article in Mother Earth News and decided to give it a try.

I was leery. I’ve made bread and enjoyed it, but it’s an all day event and a lot of work, which is why I don’t do it often. This article made it sound practically, well, easy. How could it be good and easy? That’s why we buy frozen rolls at Thanksgiving—because they are good and easy, easier than praying that the rolls rise. It’s why we make quick breads—no yeast equals quick and easy. So, I was skeptical.

Al, however, was gung ho. He went to Breadtopia and watched the videos and got the recipe. The only thing you really should have that everyone might not have is a cast iron Dutch oven or a terra cotta baker with a domed lid (called a la croche). Otherwise, it’s easy peasy. And yes, it tasted good, really good. It was crusty on the outside, with a soft, holey crumb on the inside.

I can hear you saying, “Get on with it! Just tell me how to do it!” OK, OK, jeez. I’ll tell ya, but you might want to go to Breadtopia to see the instructional video.

The ingredients are

3 cups bread flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (We didn’t get instant, so we bloomed it with a ¼ cup of lukewarm water)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups water (actually, the recipe called for purified or spring water, but pffffft. Our tap water is pretty darn good)

So, here’s what you do:

1. If you didn’t get instant yeast, mix the yeast in about a ¼ cup lukewarm water, just to give it a head start.
2. Mix the dry ingredients together (if using instant yeast, that’s included in this step).
3. Mix in the water until it is incorporated. The dough will be wet and sticky.
4. Cover with plastic and let it sit at room temperature for 18 hours.

Here's what it looks like in the bowl after 18 hours:

5. Scrape that yeasty goodness onto a well floured surface. Flour your hands and the top of the dough, then press it into a rectangle.
6. From the short side, fold a third of the dough onto itself, then fold the other third of the dough on top of that first fold, so you’ll have a rectangle. Then fold it in half to form a square.

7. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.
8. Dust a kitchen towel with flour and transfer the dough to the towel or into a proofing basket (which is basically a basket with a towel), cover with another towel and let rise for 1 ½ hour.
9. With the Dutch oven in it, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
10. Flour your hands and form the risen dough into a ball.

Put the dough into Dutch oven and bake for 30 minutes.
11. Remove the lid, reduce heat to 450 degrees, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

12. Let cool completely, for at least 45 minutes, on a rack.

13. Reward yourself for waiting by eating a thick, warm slice with butter and honey.

We were so excited about this lovely little loaf we had created that we wanted to try all of our favorite things on it. While Al went to the store for a bottle of wine and tomatoes, I cut up a platter of leftover prime rib, ham, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, and summer sausage.

I also poured a small bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and got out the butter, jam, peanut butter, and honey. When Al got home, we just ate ourselves into oblivion. I have to say, that my favorite was the peanut butter and honey. It reminded me of the 15th anniversary Al and I celebrated at this lovely bed and breakfast outside of Ohio called The Murphin Ridge Inn. It was in the middle of an Amish settlement, so they used bread and other things made by the Amish. The Inn owners offered a box lunch of thick slices of Amish white bread, slathered with peanut butter and honey. I’m salivating just thinking about that sandwich.

Since this first trial, we’ve made 2 more loaves—one with dried cranberries and walnuts (my favorite so far) and one with Asiago cheese. And the house smells amazing.

So, give it a try. There aren’t many more things as comforting as warm bread with butter and jam and a cup of coffee, unless, of course, it’s bread with peanut butter and honey.

And for your amusement, here's a picture of Cosette enjoying her Christmas present from Uncle Jay and Grandma.


Kathy said...

That looks amazing!! I love to make bread. There's a recipe (from James Beard) in the NYTIMES COOKBOOK for Cuban bread. I use my food processor for most of the kneading. And it only takes an hour or two total. If you can't find it let me know and I'll email you the recipe. Kathy

Karen said...

Looks yummy! I am totally afraid of yeast.

Tink said...

Mmmm! You're making me so hungry!

fiwa said...

And the loaves look so pretty! They truly look like that pricey specialty bread you would get in the store. How cool - I am going to give this a shot. I can actually make a decent loaf with my kitchen aid mixer - but this sounds easier and less to cleanup.

Thanks for the offer about Scotland - that is really sweet of you. :) I'll send you an email in the next couple of days.

Thanks again for this recipe!

fiwa said...

I just came back to write down the recipe - and I was looking at the picture of COsette. She cracks me up - she's doing the same thing my dog does, pulling the stuffing out. What is up with that?!

Anonymous said...

oh.....I wish I could reach in and swipe that platter of meat and cheese, the bread and wine!