Monday, November 24, 2008

Never Knead Again

Yep, it's possible.
Last year, I was fascinated by a bread making technique that had made the rounds of the Internet that claimed "no kneading". I have weak hands, scrawny fore arms, and actually purchased a bread machine years ago because I have never been able to "knead" properly. I was truly ashamed of my no-knead-ability. That "recipe" was a hit at our house! Essentially you mixed together water, yeast, salt and flour until "shaggy", and then let it ferment for 24 hours or so (room-temperature) before dumping it in a pre-heated cast-iron dutch oven and baking it. Yurmm! But, eventually, we quit pre-preparing the dough on a daily basis. Another month or so and we were back to purchasing our "pain quotidien".

Recently, I found a copy of "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" - and we are giving daily baking a new whirl. The cookbook's assortment of recipes is ..... you can find these bread-shaping ideas and ingredient lists in lots and lots of places. The technique also needed a bit of tweeking for me to include on a relatively regular basis in our home. However, it reminded me that kneading is an option in bread making!!

Here's how I'm baking these days:
  • in a 4.5 qt mixing bowl (or just a big bowl! you can stir this together by hand!!) place 3 c. warm (100 degrees or so "blood-warm") water, 1 1/2 TBS yeast (1 +1/2 package), and 1 1/2 TBS salt.
  • in another bowl, mix/stir gently -just fluff it up a bit!- 6 1/2 C. flour - I use whole wheat, never white (blech! if you are going to eat carbs, at least get some vitamins with them!!) And in today's batch, I substituted 1 1/2c. coarse ground corn meal for the equivalent flour because it sounded good :)
  • Using the dough hook, or a nice sturdy long handled spoon, mix the flour into the water mixture. Not too much, just so there's no big gobs of unincorporated flour.
  • Cover the resulting (wet and shaggy looking) dough, in it's bowl, with a tea towel and leave it alone for a couple of hours. It will rise up a bit. When it's risen (Hallelujah!), take about 1/4 of it, shape into a slightly flattened ball and bake. If you want, you can cover and refrigerate the dough at this point, then come back waaaaay later (up to 10 days later!) to
  • whack off about 1/4 of the dough. Quickly shape it into a slightly flattened ball, place on a flour-dusted towel or counter top, and let it warm to temperature and rise a bit.
  • Pre-heat a cast iron or oven-proof casserole dish that you have a cover for, in a 400 degree oven (15 minutes or so). No need to grease or oil the pot.
  • Plop your ball-ish dough into the heated pot. Slash the dough if you feel artsy. Or not, if you are more of a Plain-Jane Baker. Cover the pot. Close the oven door. Set the timer for 30 minutes. At 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking another 15 minutes or so.
  • Take the pot from the oven, turn the (nicely browned and beautifully aromatic) bread our onto a rack or towel to cool.
  • Remember that warm bread tastes best with cultured butter - and slices best if it's been cooled.
The remainder of the dough will happily continue to ferment all week long, and make another 3 loaves or so. The more "mature" the dough, the better the sourdough flavor! See? This recipe is more convenient because you make a large batch to use all week. Add the hot-pot baking technique from the earlier recipe, and you've got great bread, in 5 minutes most days :)

Sorry there's no picture of the bread.I didn't remember to grab the camera before dinner, so the Broa Bread (cornmeal yeasted Portuguese Bread) is nicely nestled in our tummies.......
Edited 11-29-08 to add: picture of loaf #3 of this batch of dough :)

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