Thursday, December 31, 2009

No Knead Bread Update

It's been months since we bought a loaf of bread.  No knead bread is now part of our regular routine.  I do still vaguely measure the flour and water but otherwise I mostly dump handfuls and dollops of ingredients in the pot. I've found that not preheating the pot avoids too dark a crust and we like to have something sweet in our bread.

If you need encouragement to try it, watch Jacques Pepin make what is the simplest of versions.  His requires a better no-stick pot than I have!

My basic formula is:
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups other flour or combination of flours
  • 1 envelope fast-acting yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar or other sweet ingredient
  • Other additions as desired
  • 2-2 1/2 cups water
 The basic method:
  1. Stir the chosen ingredients in a large bowl until moistened.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap.
  3. Ignore 6-10 hours.
  4. Stir down.
  5. Re-cover and ignore for another 1-3 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  7. Flop dough into a greased pot with lid.
  8. Bake 30 minutes with the lid on.
  9. Remove the lid and bake another 20 minutes.
  10. Remove from pan and let cool on a rack or stove element. 
  •  I use King Arthur bread flour.  Not only is it readily available in local grocery stores but it is bromate-free.
  • Whole wheat flour is easily obtained at the grocery store.
  • More unusual flours include semolina flour, rye flour, oat flour, potato flour, graham flour, buckwheat flour, and the like.  These are less likely to be found in grocery stores.  I order from Barry Farms which has an amazing variety of flours.  When I get my order, I transfer the flour from the plastic bags into disposable plastic containers.  I then cut the labels off the bags and tape them to the tops of the plastic containers with transparent packing tape. These stack well and, being translucent, make it easy to see how much I have left of each kind.
Other ingredients:
  • White sugar, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, honey, etc.
  • Corn meal, rolled oats, wheat flakes, oat flakes, etc.
  • Dried or finely chopped fresh dill, rosemary, etc.
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc.
  • Chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, roasted sunflower seeds, etc.
  • Raisins, minced garlic, olives, etc. (Add these wetter ingredients at the "stir down.")
So, each time I make a loaf of bread, I improvise depending on what strikes my fancy.  We love variety.
  • Anadama lemon rye is 2 cups bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup rye flour, 1/2 cup corn meal, the zest of a lemon, and molasses for sweetening.  It's also good without the lemon.
  • Sesame seeds go well on a bread made of 3 cups bread flour, 1 cup semolina flour, and white sugar.
  • Dill goes well in bread made with 2 cups bread flour, 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup potato flour and white sugar.
  • 2 cups of bread flour, 1 cup of whole wheat flour, 1 cup of buckwheat flour, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and dark brown sugar makes a wonderful grainy bread.
  • Make chewy homemade hamburger rolls by using all bread flour and shaping the dough into rolls to rise after the stir down.  These take less time to bake.
  • Here's no knead cinnamon rolls.
Right now, there's a 1/2 bread flour, 1/2 rye flour dough rising with some spices in it (ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger), sweetened with honey.   This should make great toast for breakfast tomorrow!

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Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.