Following on from the episode of my father’s bread tins and the runaway flour, LeggyPeggy asked about the recipe, so I thought I might share it today. Below is my original ‘baking dish’ – a cast iron dutch oven.
I’ve moved along a little since then.
I’m not a baker, and the idea of kneading dough leaves me feeling a little queasy. Just not my cup of tea (or, slice of toast, perhaps). I’m lazy.
A couple of years back, however, I started to contemplate what I might do in my retirement, as a past-time. This would have been just before I started to go nuts with creating poetry collections in book form. If I’d known then what I know now I’d have realised that there aren’t enough hours in a day to babysit my publication dreams and aspirations.
I decided to look into bread making as an artisan kind of craft that I might get some satisfaction out of. Put food on the table.
What Sort of Bread?
We have some wonderful bakeries and food outlets in my part of the world. I think it is probably correct to say that North-East Victoria (Australia) where I am based is something of a gourmet food bowl. There are small bakeries all around, including in Beechworth itself. Inspirational!
I started looking into sourdough baking, complete with mothers and feedings and storage in the fridge and so on.
It didn’t take long for me to remember that I don’t care much for kneading, and having a hungry child, as it seemed to me, in the house was not appealing. At all.
As always, the internet, and YouTube were my friend. No knead to worry. No knead, at all!
The famous No Knead Bread recipe.
I owe much to the New York Times Cooking section for the publication of their article on No Knead Baking. COmplete with a video showing Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery demonstrating just how to do it.
Too easy. Do yourself a favour and check it out. I think there is something revolutionary about this whole process.
I don’t do that, anymore, however.
I investigated further – much further. It’s in my nature to become a little obsessed with these things, and, as easy as the recipe was, and as good as the product was (very good, indeed!), I felt the need to refine.
I won’t put links up to all the places I visited and all the steps forward. And I won’t go into all the variations in quantity of yeast and salt and so on.
Suffice to say that I ended up routinely baking a no knead fruit loaf that I could start and finish in the space of a few hours, and that both Leanne and I thought was pretty good.
Along the way, I claimed the baking tins that I wrote about yesterday, and started using them to get a little shape into the loaves.
All these things are a journey, and the person taking the steps ends up being shaped and reshaped, a little, just as the bread is. The picture below has been dug up out of the archives, just to show an early result.
What changed from the original?
Well, I said I wasn’t going to talk about yeast and such, but it’s actually fairly important, I think.
By inclination I’m fairly literal with regard to recipes. I like to have them open on the bench, all details spelt out and to follow, line by line.
Then I make variations, because I can’t resist. My own worst enemy, but also, the kitchen adventurer.
The biggest changes I’ve made to the original recipe that I linked to above, has been the quantity and type of yeast I use.
In my researches I found many developments had taken place among the aficionados of no-knead baking (and believe me, there are aficionados galore). Principal among the changes has been the use of increased quantities of yeast to enable a more rapid rising of the dough, and to make start to finish much quicker. We all want our bread in a hurry, no?
In addition, I have made fruit bread by adding quantities of dried fruit – cranberries, apricots, figs, dates. About 80 grams of each, coarsely chopped up. Lovely as toast!
I’ve also attempted cheese and olives.
The journey with yeast has been gradual, for me, but I have ended up with a reasonably fast rising loaf that is very responsive to a little warmth, and is quite light.
Also, I am now buying my yeast from a baker. I think the quality of the yeast has made a substantial difference to the willingness of the dough.
Without further ado . . . the recipe
Here it is:
Water – about 385 mls (around 13 fluid ounces)
Salt – about 2/3 – 3/4 of a teaspoon
Yeast – about 2 teaspoons
Flour – 430 – 450 grams
. Water to be at room temperature or a little warmer.
. Yeast thoroughly combined with water.
. Salt thoroughly combined with water.
. Flour mixed to form well blended dough (I use a wooden spoon)
Cover and let it sit in a warm place for as long as it takes to double in size. This may be 2 hours, or less.
Punch it down – I use the pointy end of the wooden spoon for this. I also have taken to folding the dough as a way of keeping it light throughout my tender ministrations.
Let it double in size again.
Start your over – looking for 240 degrees Centigrade.
Punch it down a bit, then tip it onto a sheet of baking paper.
Insert into your chosen baking dish – bread tin, or whatever. Cover it and let it rise again for 20 – 40 minutes as you see fit.
Put a baking dish with 1 – 2 cups of water on the bottom shelf of the oven and give it a few minutes to get up to speed.
Pop your dough in the oven for 40 minutes.
Seeds and Wholemeal
I make all my loaves in a wholemeal fashion, and add 3 – 4 varieties of seed to the mix at the point when I am adding the flour.
Quantities are generally ‘a handful’, and might be any or all of:
Sesame (usually on top of loaf.
Pepitas (pumpkin seed)
Wholemeal requires a variation in the arrangements for flour. It’s a little tricky as from what I understand, wholemeal impedes the rising of the dough, somewhat. My flour variatios is this:
Plain flour – 350 grams
Wholemeal flour 100 grams.
If you want to go whole hog with the wholemeal aspect, I sometimes use whole wheat that I powder myself in the blender.
Enjoy your baking, and I’d be delighted to hear your experience if you try the recipe.