December 16, 2006

I’m not going to say I have a problem but …

This is really getting a little out of hand: five days and ten loaves later, I’m forcing fresh bread on friends and co-workers under the guise of Christmas presents. I’ve been through 15 pounds of flour and now I’m eying the really big bags. You know, the ones on the bottom shelf at the grocery you never thought anyone actually bought. The house smells so good that I don’t want to cook anything that might mask the scent of yeast and fresh bread. We’re having friends over tonight so I’m heading out from the office early to make sure I have time to let the dough rise before dinner. A few observations on the no-knead method:

  • The recipe is very adaptable. Feel free to double it, halve it, add fruit, nuts or herbs. It all seems to work. Except for raisins. Raisins are an abomination, since they were grapes not turned into wine.
  • Adding a tablespoon of salt instead of just the 1 1/4 helps the flavor a lot and doesn’t have any adverse effects on the rise. Adding a second full tablespoon because you forgot you already added one actually did not hurt the rise too much either. However, the bread did taste a lot like seawater.
  • The video called for a 500-600 degree oven and the recipe mentioned 450 degrees. This very much depends on the type of container you are using. A le Creuset round French oven is ideal for this, as is a typical cast Dutch oven. A heavy stock pot works fine, but the temperature needs to be around 400 degrees or you’ll burn the bottom of your bread. A thinner & lighter pot means lower baking temperatures.
  • Baking multiple batches at once is possible, but you will end up burning yourself as you juggle oven-hot lids. Note that a hot Calphalon lid makes a particular searing noise when it rests on your forearm.
  • I found that even at the lower temperatures, the bread was well on its way to browning nicely even before I remov ed the lid for the final fifteen minutes. Keep an eye on it as it colors up, as it probably does not need a full 15 minutes.
  • Longer rising times do not seem to hurt or really help. My house is only 62 degrees during the day when no one is at home, and a full 18-20 hours was more than sufficient for the initial fermentation. I did not find that a full two hours was necessary for the secondary rising, so don’t sweat the clock.
  • This bread keeps remarkably well. I wrap it in linen towels after it cools, and it tastes fresh (ok, almost) four or five days later. The stuff we buy bought at the local bakery has a half-life of about 12 hours, so this was a happy discovery.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jennifer December 16, 2006 at

Great experimentation! We’ll be following in your footsteps once the semester is finished off. I’m particularly excited by the possibilities for adding fruits and nuts — have you tried chocolate yet?

2 veron December 19, 2006 at

This is great ! I always love experiments,I’m glad I don’t have to worry about the temperature of the house getting to 65F if 62F was still fine for the fermentation.

3 Bruce December 24, 2006 at

Sounds good enough to try baking again. But give a raisin a break. My memories of sprinking cinnamon and sugar on freshly baked and buttered raisin-bread toast go back much further than my earliest recollection of wine.

I suspect wine made from Thompson Seedless grapes would be the true abomination. The best I’ve heard said of the stuff is, “it lacks distinction.” Why would we want to drink that?

jared says: I suppose you’re right.  As a firm believer in the NGLB (No Grape Left Behind) initiative, it is hard but necessary to admit that not all grapes are going to make it into a bottle.  Some must shrivel and be baked.  However, I fell sure I don’nt need to remind anyone of the bitter disappointment we’ve all felt when biting into what we thought was a lovely chocoloate-chip cookie only to find it’s a raisin cookie, sans chips.  That, truly, is a an abomination.

4 Lisabeth December 26, 2006 at

I tried the recipe and I am now an amazing bread goddess. (this according to my husband)
I have never, ever been a successful bread maker, even (sheepishly admitting) with a bread maker.
You have helped me attain a lofty status. Thanks and YUM!

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