Or: the Trials and Tribulations of an Uptown Girl with a Boyfriend from Old Europe

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Location: Basel, Switzerland

Monday, November 13, 2006

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou

Mark Bittman is a genius.

Actually, not Mark Bittman - Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. But Mark scores points for having spread the joy.

In the last Dining In/Dining Out section of the New York Times, Mark shared a recipe for the easiest bread you'll ever make. On the simplicity front, it beats the bread from King Arthur's Flour by a long shot, though it results in a very different loaf than the dense, satisfying round that previously claimed the title. Jim Leahy's bread requires no kneading (although this my favorite part of making bread), only a smidgeon of yeast, and a lot of time - 14-20 hours. But since most of that time can be spent doing something else, there's no reason to complain, unless you're very, very hungry. (In which case, you won't be baking your own bread anyway.)

Here's the recipe:

Recipe: No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 11⁄2 hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1⁄4 teaspoon instant yeast
11⁄4 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.

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. 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. 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, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 11⁄2-pound loaf.
I started mine late last night when I came back from meeting friends. It took less than five minutes to pull out the ingredients (King Arthur bread flour for the bread, oat bran for the coating) and mix them together in my KitchenAid. By 3 pm today, the dough was bubbly, and when I poured it out of the bowl, it elongated into gorgeous, elastic strands that weren't too sticky. The trickiest part was getting it into the hot Corningware casserole without either missing or burning myself, but I managed. 45 minutes later, I had a lovely deep brown loaf.

Flavorwise, it doesn't quite achieve the heights scaled by the Poilâne bread it resembles: it doesn't have the same wonderful sourdough tang. That being said, it certainly beats most of the bread that's available in this country. It's got a fabulously crackly crust and a hole-y, chewy interior. Slathered with butter fresh out of the oven, it's heavenly. It's also fantastic with preserves, Nutella, slices of roast chicken... well, pretty much everything.

No surprise that, along with a glass of intense red wine, it ended up being my dinner. This is happiness, pure and simple. All that's missing is Swissy Pie.

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Blogger Jessica Brogan said...

by all means you can link me in :)

I put a few comments on older posts of yours

November 15, 2006 at 10:37 PM  

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