Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Baking bread

I've went through a couple of periods of baking bread over the years, but have never really stuck with it.  The main reason was that I couldn't get the right consistency or flavor to make it worth the effort of baking it myself. 

Well, everything has changed because I've found a recipe that is works awesome.  I'm going on 3 weeks of baking my own bread.  The only baked goods we've bought are english muffins.  Yay! 

This recipe makes a rustic loaf of bread.  It's super easy to do and turns out yummy every time.  I make a double batch every other day.  So one day I'm baking, the other doing the prep.  Either way is less than 5 minutes per day.  I love having fresh healthy bread in the house.

NY Times - NO KNEAD BREAD    AND A  Helpful How-to video

Here's the recipe:

No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting  (while white unbleached, unbromated flour is my favorite, I've had great success with blending whole wheat and white.  Making it all whole wheat tasted good, but was heavier than we prefer our bread to be)

¼ teaspoon instant yeast (I use active dry and it seems to work just fine)

1¼ teaspoons salt

Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.  

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

For this stage here, instead of letting it rise on a towel, I put it straight onto a piece of unfloured parchment paper and then cover it with a flour sack towel (I needed to reduce the flour on the surface of the bread since not only did Dave not like it, he had someone at work tell him his sandwich had mold on it, haha!)

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. (I use my large square Pyrex baking dish, it's working great so far)
When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K.  (I simply pick up my parchment sheet and set the whole thing into the dish, this works great)
Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes (I can only do 5 minutes additional, I think because my lid is clear) until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Letting it cool all the way is important.  If you cut it too early, the inside tends to be a lot heavier and underdone.  When you let it sit and cool, this doesn't happen.

And that's it!!  Here is the first loaf I did when I hadn't yet modified it for my use.  It is a little dark for my taste and also, the shape is too square for the esthetics I prefer

It came out great though, and tasted awesome 

And here is one of the loaves I baked this afternoon

Delicious!  This is my before bed snack.  Or it's also great when I have heartburn or am a little queasy.  Another way I love it is with butter and a slice of Havarti cheese.  Yummmmm.  I'm making myself hungry again!

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