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Boom-de-yadda
There were never any "good old days" — they are today, they are tomorrow
mmm, bread 
3rd-Feb-2008 02:45 pm
Lexi in the woods
[apologies up front to all my celiac friends...]

As spiritualmonkey posted, we've been having fresh-baked bread a lot lately, thanks to a spiffy no-knead slow-rise recipe I came across. This is not the famous Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread from the New York Times. I haven't tried that one yet — although lots of people have had excellent results, there are also a lot of people who say it's tricky to get the timing right.

This is a different recipe — although, just to make it confusing, you could still refer to it as "that no-knead bread recipe from the New York Times" and be correct. This is from a new cookbook called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zöe François. (So new, in fact, that the Oakland Library hasn't even received its copy yet. And so popular — the first three printings sold out, iirc — it may take them a while to get their copy. Yours truly is #1 on the hold list when it does come in...) The idea behind this recipe is that you mix up a big batch of very wet dough and keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks. Whenever you want bread, you slice off a piece of dough, shape it, let it rise for an hour or more, and bake.

There are several base recipes, which can be adapted to make more than 100 breads and pastries, all no-knead:
PEASANT LOAVES: Baguette, Batard, Pain d'Epi, Ciabatta, Crusty White Sandwich Loaf, Olive Bread, Caraway Swirl Rye, Limpa (Scandinavian bread with honey and orange zest), Portuguese Corn Bread, English Granary Style, Oatmeal-Pumpkin, Raisin Walnut Oatmeal, Vermont Cheddar Bread, Caramelized Onion & Herb Dinner Rolls, Spinach Feta, Sun-Dried Tomato & Parmesan, Granola Bread, Roasted Garlic Potato Bread, Eastern European Potato Rye, Bagels, Bialys, Soft Pretzels, Montreal Bagels

FLATBREADS/PIZZAS: Pizza, Spinach & Cheese Calzone, Philadelphia Stromboli with Sausage, Prosciutto & Olive Oil Flatbread, Pissaladiere, Focaccia with Onion & Rosemary, Olive Fougasse, Fougasse Stuffed with Roasted Red Pepper, Sweet Provencal Flatbread with Anise Seeds, Pine-Nut Studded Polenta Flatbread, Arabic Za'atar Flatbread, Pita, Amenian Lavash, Moroccan Anise and Barley Flatbread, Naan, Scandinavian Rye Crisp bread

ENRICHED: Challah, Turban Shaped Challah with Raisins, Onion Pletzel, Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls, Brioche, Brioche a Tete, Almond Brioche "Bostock", Brioche Filled with Chocolate Ganache, Beignets, Chocolate or Jam Filled Beignets, Panettone, Soft-Style American White, Buttermilk Bread, Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Chocolate Bread, Swiss Muesli Breakfast Bread, Sunflower Seed Breakfast Loaf, Chocolate Prune, Chocolate Raisin Babka, Apple & Pear Coffee Cake, Sunny Side up Apricot Pastry, Blueberry Lemon Curd Ring, Braided Raspberry Almond Cream Pastry, Cinnamon Twists
Some of the people who've made the basic recipe feel that the flavor is not as good (less complex, yeastier) than the Lahey NKB, but at least of the ones who've blogged about that being a problem, many have found that they get much better results once the dough is farther along in its 2-week lifespan.

ozarque posted an enthusiastic review of the book, and the library doesn't seem to be any closer to getting their copy, so I started looking online. And fortunately, although I haven't actually gotten my hands on the book yet, I've been able to try the technique because the authors have cagily generously made several of the recipes and a lot of information available online.
I think I mixed up the first batch of dough less than a week ago, so we're still getting familiar with the recipe and how to work with the dough. Even in that short time we've noticed our results improving, though. One tip that's been valuable is to save an egg-sized lump of dough from one batch to mix in with the next one. This helps the yeast get started earlier and gives a better flavor and texture to the dough.

We haven't quite figured out the best way to transfer the dough from where it's rising to where it needs to be baked. It's so wet that you'd need a solid layer of cornmeal to keep it from sticking to the counter or peel while rising (and that does not-so-good things to the bottom crust). And you don't want to have to peel it off whatever it's on, because it's such a soft, wet dough that it will deflate badly. It still has impressive oven spring, but I figure less deflation has got to be better.

The most successful method so far has been to let it rise directly on the Silpat, then slide the Silpat gently onto the preheated baking stone. I've also read of people having good luck letting it rise on parchment, then transferring that to the oven (or to the preheated Dutch oven, if you're doing it that way).

We're both really enjoying having fresh bread so easily. spiritualmonkey, who was not a baker before this, has been having a great time coming up with various ways of using the dough — the basic crusty white dough done stromboli-style with pepperoni and cheese, or the sweet dough rolled out flat, sprinkled generously with cinnamon and brown sugar, then rolled up like a jellyroll and baked. Or the foot-long pain au chocolat the monkey mentioned, for that matter. (Which wasn't really a pain au chocolat, to be precise, as we had no actual chocolate in the pantry. However, that cinnamon-sugar-roll technique works quite nicely using Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa — nicely improvised, monkey.)

Of course, if you start reading up online about no-knead bread, you're going to come across the people who insist that this isn't "real" baking: "My question about 'no knead' is, if you don't knead it with your own two hands, how do you get the love into it?"

That attitude really annoys me. You know what? It's not a choice between homemade but nonetheless sub-par no-knead bread on one hand and homemade hand-kneaded no-mixer-involved slow-rise poolish-or-biga-or-wild-yeast-sourdough-based artisan bread on the other, it's a choice between homemade no-knead bread that's crusty and tasty and makes my apartment smell terrific while it's baking on one hand and a loaf of store-bought bread on the other. Me being a food-loving sort who lives in the SF Bay Area, the loaf of store-bought might be from Arizmendi or Acme, but for a lot of people in this country, store-bought doesn't get more exotic than Oroweat.

I much prefer people with more realistic attitudes: "I make it, knowing full well that there are better breads I make. I taught my neighbor who has never made bread in her life how to make that bread. So, that says it all."

The problem I have right now is that we're out of savory dough and almost out of sweet. I'm supposed to be on all-but-bed-rest for my back and leg (shh, don't tell my acupuncturist I was sitting up in front of the computer for as long as it took me to write this post), so I shouldn't go mix up new dough myself. And the monkey has been taken out of commission by the soporificat:

pirate & nemo snoozing

*sigh*
Comments 
4th-Feb-2008 03:22 am (UTC)
Yes, the bread would be better flavored after 4-7 days, because the amylase reactions will start. A little bit of egg yolk would speed that up.

I shall have to look into the book. I shall also have to clear out some of the refridgerator and make some of the dough.

TK
4th-Feb-2008 07:40 am (UTC)
THANK you. Going to try both the long rising no knead, and this, am looking forward! I have slowly realized that I do not eat any bread here, as the bread they buy.. well, it is rather like bread flavored cotton. I ..... don't eat it.
And I don't live three blocks from Farmer Joe's any more (GOD I MISS THEM!)
And Whole Paycheck is Far, Far Away.
so, thanks, and thanks again, I will be giving this some serious attention...

love you!

oh yah, I have three soporificats, as you well know, and they are still very effective. Actually, I do believe, as they get older, they become even more effective. Or I have become more susceptable...
Tali, NotTali, and Grey say helloooo to you and Pi...
4th-Feb-2008 08:11 am (UTC)

I remember that NYT article but never got around to making the bread. Good to get updated references and progress reports.

Lately I have been dreaming of the Fougasse from Wild Flower (or whatever that destination bakery is just West of Sebastopol); making bread on a regular basis would scratch that itch.
4th-Feb-2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
So new, in fact, that the Oakland Library hasn't even received its copy yet.

So it's only been out for a couple of years? ;-)
6th-Feb-2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
I'm almost tempted to try making this bread. Though I've been experiencing some serious energy and motivational difficulties the last few weeks when it comes to anything.
6th-Feb-2008 11:55 pm (UTC)
Yummmm.
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