Tuesday, January 06, 2009
My dad is the kind of person who bakes bread. In truth, his hobbies do sort of tend to revolve around yeast because it's a professional interest for him, but still. He has really got the bread thing all figured out. I don't bake bread, not at all, although I have always meant to learn how. It's sort of intimidating. The other day I finally (like, 2 years later, but whatever) got around to making the no-knead bread that Mark Bittman sounded so stoked about in the NY Times. And it is indeed absolutely easy and almost foolproof, so maybe it will be my gateway drug for bread baking. It is not immediate gratification though--you won't see your finished bread until 20 hours after you started the process. But the hands-on time is very minimal and it is worth the wait for fresh bread. Plus it is really fun, especially for a baking novice like me. Mixed 3 cups of bread flour with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon yeast. The recipe actually calls for 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast, but I only had regular on hand so I increased the amount to improve the reaction time. I think it worked fine, so don't let your yeast type deter you from trying it. But get instant if you are going specially to the grocery store.After the dry ingredients are mixed together, add 1 5/8 cups of water (umm, that is the Bittman recipe talking there. I actually used 1 1/2 cups. I can't measure 1 5/8, can you?) and stir briefly into a messy lump.Covered up my bowl of water, flour, yeast and salt with plastic wrap......and let it sit. For 18 hours.It definitely gets bigger! It's alive!After this long wait, the top should be sort of bubbly looking. Plop it out onto a clean, floured countertop and turn the dough over on itself a couple times. Cover it with the plastic wrap again and let it rest for 15 minutes.Shape the dough into a ball, coat a clean dishtowel with cornmeal, and put the dough ball on your cornmeal towel. Then sprinkle more cornmeal over the top of the dough and cover with another towel and leave it alone for 2 more hours. Bittman says bran or more flour are fine to use instead of the cornmeal, by the way. 30 minutes before the 2 hours are up (so, after 1 1/2 hours of final rise time), stick a lidded cast iron pot (or Pyrex, enamel, ceramic--anything that is heavy, incredibly oven-safe and has a lid will do) into your oven at 450 degrees. When 30 minutes of hot time have passed, pull out the pot and dump in your ball of dough as well as you can. You can give the pot a shake to redistribute the goods. Cover it again and let it bake for 30 minutes, then take off the (very hot) lid and let it go another 15-20 minutes to get brown and gorgeous.