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Goooood bread…very good bread!

At last I have made a freaking decent loaf of bread.  Where most of my efforts have turned out something like this:

Admittedly, the photo is pretty good (even though I took it myself – the husband has been giving me lessons), so it’s difficult to see how uninspiring this loaf is.  The crust is very thick and hard and while the loaf itself tastes pretty good, it could have been used in China for the discus throw a couple of weeks ago.  Most of my bread has come out like this one – that is, not exactly horrible, but certainly not good…enough.  I’m a perfectionist (for a great case arguing why we suck, read Pam Slim’s post).  At any rate, this is not the bread I aspire to.  This is not the bread of French cafes, of Berkeley bread shops or even of the mediocre Los Angeles grocery store down the street.  This stuff is…edible to prove how cheap I am.  So I’ve been reading about “no-knead” bread with both excitement and apprehension.  I read recently on someone’s blog that the real reason people don’t bake bread isn’t because of the kneading, it’s because homemade bread is generally just bad.  So all the accolades for marvelous no-knead bread that was so easy and made such wonderful stuff…well, could it all be true?  The woman over at the soap making blog made crafting handmade soaps you can sell out of your basement sound simple and I ruined my stand mixer paddle attachment doing that (how did I know it was made out of aluminum – ok, I did, but you can’t expect me to remember these details after 45 hours of stirring waiting for something called ‘saponification…’).

Turns out I was right to be a bit apprehensive because the above pictured loaf is a variation on NKB which I’ve now made three times with the same very uninspiring (if still kind of edible) results.  The last hope I had (three times – that should be enough failing to get it at least sort of right, right?) was a recipe I found reposted from Cook’s Illustrated…Oh how I love this magazine!  No ads, only a handful of recipes and every one of them tested within an inch of its life.  This speaks to my (sucky) perfectionist soul like not much else.  So I tried this recipe, with a few of the modifications that the poster recommended and I give you…

BREAD PORN!

I can’t believe I finally made a decent loaf of bread!  It’s delicious and you can just tear it apart with your hands and eat pieces of it.  It’s not as good as the place in Berkeley, but it’s so close and better than anything I’ve bought so far in Los Angeles.  Hooray!  If you want to try it yourself, here’s the recipe I used:

Almost No-Knead Bread
3 c. (15 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 t. instant yeast
1 1/2 t. table salt
3/4 c. plus 2 T. (7 oz.) room-temperature water
1/4 c. plus 2 T. (3 oz.) mild-flavored lager
1 T. white vinegar

1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Fold mixture until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.
2. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined 10-inch skillet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours.
3. About 30 minutes before baking, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven on lowest rack, and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Make one slash along top of dough. Take preheated pot out of oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by the edges of the parchment and ease into pot. Put lid back on and place in oven. Reduce temerature to 425 and bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove lid and turn pan 180 around for more even browning. Bake another 20 to 30 minutes, until loaf is deep brown. Transfer to wire rack and cool.

Please!  Try this at home!  Just be really careful not to burn yourself and double the salt.  If you have some sourdough starter, skip the vinegar and throw in a 1/4 cup or so of the starter instead.

Did I say this already?  Hooray bread!!

One Comment

  1. Maw says:

    Just like your mother used to make ;+}

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