Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Bread that Swept Manhattan

There's a breadvolution going on in the blogosphere. Apparently Mark Bittman of the New York Times posted a recipe for a very simple no kneading bread as taught to him by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery and the cooking blogs caught wind of this and everyone's getting into the act.

I got the recipe from Leland's mom of Eat fame; when I saw the ingredient list, I thought- hey I can do this. So here's the step by step from a non-cooking blogger using what was in the house. How amateur am I? This is my first bread I've ever cooked not using a bread machine. Ever. And it was easy!

Consider this the "for dummies" version of the recipe...
Ingredients- flour, water, salt, and fast acting yeast. That's it! I had to buy the yeast but I already had wheat flour and kosher salt. The recipe just says salt, so I have no idea if kosher salt makes any difference at all. Nor do I have any idea how to adjust the recipe for wheat flour. Nor are my measurements precise; I just scoop!
Mix 3 cups of flour, 1.5 cups water, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, and 1.5 teaspoons salt. Apparently you are supposed to mix all the dry ingredients first, but as you can see below, I did not do that. Did it make a difference? No idea!
I used cold tap water and I'm not sure if that made any difference either. I took my scraper and mixed it up for about 30 seconds until all the water and flour mixed well.
I covered the bowl with plastic wrap (Reynolds wrap is a poor clinger, btw) and set it in the microwave overnight. The recipe said to keep it in a warm place; I supposed I could have just left it on the counter but the microwave got it out of the way.
After 12 plus hours, dough should have risen to about twice it's size and be bubbly. And it was! The "bubbles" were more like small depressions of popped bubbles, and not Hubba Bubba style giants. This was after 15 hours:
Flour up your counter or work area (I used a plastic cutting board) and your hands. Flop dough down and spread it out a little bit. Fold dough over itself from all 4 sides, like the back of an envelope but messier. Place folded dough "postage" side up in wax paper and wait 1-2 more hours. The recipe actually says to use a towel but that would mean more laundry, so wax paper works fine. Next time I would flour it up a bit though.
Preheat the oven AND THE POT to 475. The original recipe calls for a Le Creuset but I have no idea what that actually is and used a large corningware dish that had a lid. Dump the dough postage side down into the pot. Dumping the dough into the hot dish was a little tricky as it stuck to the wax paper a little bit and it was all off to one side of the pan but I just left it as is. At this point I sprinkled some poppy seeds on top.
The next step is crucial- COVER THE PAN for the first 30 minutes. The glass lid worked fine, although it didn't seal 100% tight due to some dough on the rim. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and keep cooking the bread 10-25 more minutes until it looks done. With the dark wheat bread this proved slightly difficult.
Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. If you don't have a cooling rack (like me), use the rack from your toaster oven.
Once it cools, you will have a delicious bread. The bread was a bit dense with a slight chewiness to it, and as every other blog mentions- a delicious crust. It was simple to make and came out awesome paired with my world famous Buffalo bison chili. I highly recommend this even for novice bakers.