Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cooking in Cast Iron.

The post for Lahey's No-Knead Bread was linked on Cooking in Cast Iron. It's a very interesting site, so please go check them out!

Photo from Cooking in Cast Iron.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

No-Knead Bread--The Trend Makes It to the Sticks

After church this morning, I walked up to my friend Susan to ask if she'd be interested in splitting a case of bread flour through our church co-op, and she asked me if I'd tried the No-Knead bread recipe. My jaw dropped. How had she known? Just the day before, I'd finished serving the last bits of my first No-Knead Bread venture, and it was definitely a big hit. "It's making its rounds," she said. Well, yeah, but why did it take me so long to find out about it?

The No-Knead bread recipe was first published in the New York Times, and republished everywhere (many people feared they'd take away the link or start charging for it). There have been corrections, updates and adaptations everywhere, including the Almost No-Knead Bread Recipe put out by Cook's Illustrated, which includes many variations--The Olive, Rosemary, Parmesan looks the most appealing to me, but you have to have a subscription to see the recipe. It appears that the first printing of the NYT version had a misprint, that there should be only a cup and a half of water, not one and 5/8 (who has a 5/8 measuring cup, anyway?) and I wondered, too, if the water had to be warm, or room temp, or did it even matter? As if that's not enough, there seems to be some debate about the definition of "instant" yeast. I used what I normally use, SAF-instant yeast, which I buy at a local bulk food store or through our co-op.

So, even with my minimal knowledge of the recipe, and my moderate amount of bread-baking experience, the final product was a great success.

This definitely qualifies as a recipe that takes time, but time is really all it takes. Everything else is buttah, as easy as...well, as easy as no-knead bread. Mix this up right before dinner, and you'll be ready to make it the next day for lunch. The only special equipment needed is a dutch oven, though it can be any kind of dutch oven--cast iron, ceramic, Pyrex, enamel--and cotton cloths.

So take some time, and make some bread.


No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1 1/2 hours plus 14 to 20 hours' rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1.5 cups warm water
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1.5 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest for 18 hours (yes, 18...12 will work, but 18 is the best), 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 1 1/2-pound loaf.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Genovese Basil Bread

On a cool, rainy holiday when Toby is out working on the cabin and the garden weeds will wait until the sun comes up, baking bread is at its best. And when there's an abundance of basil in the garden, that's the time to make Genovese Basil Bread.

This recipe is made in a similar fashion to french bread, so you'll roll out the dough with a rolling pin and then roll each piece up jelly-roll style.

The recipe makes four small baguette-type loaves, so if you've got a hungry clan, you'll want to make several batches!


Genovese Basil Bread

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Cups Fresh Basil Leaves, coarsely chopped and lightly packed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 package dry yeast
1 cup very warm water (105-115 degres F)
2.5 to 3 cups bread flour, plus a bit more for dusting
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in a heavy, large skillet (I love my cast iron skillets!) over low to medium heat. Add basil and garlic and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Dissolve the yeast in water in a small bowl. Let it stand for ten minutes.

Mound 2.5 cups of flour onto your work surface or in a large bowl (I use my stand mixer); make a well in the center. Add the dissolved yeast, basil mixture, salt and pepper to the well. Mix the ingredients that are in the well, and then incorporate the flour. Knead on a lightly floured surface until it's firm and elastic, adding a bit more flour if it's sticky, for several minutes (on 4 on your KitchenAid stand mixer for 10 minutes).

Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl, turning once to coat with oil, and then cover it to let it rise until it's doubled, about 45 minutes, depending on the warmth in the rising space.

Grease a baking sheet. Punch down the dough. Knead it on a lightly floured surface until it's smooth, about three minutes. Cut the dough into four pieces (or two pieces, for a longer loaf) and then roll one out on a lightly-floured surface to an 8 x 5 1/2" rectangle (longer if you're making two loaves instead of four).

Roll it up jelly-roll style, starting at one long end. Transfer to the greased baking sheet, seam side down, then do the rest of the pieces the same way. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes, until the pieces are doubled.

While they're rising, preheat your oven to 450 degrees farenheit.

When the rolls have risen, slash them from one end to the other with a serrated knife and a confident hand. Bake them for about 30 minutes, or until they're golden in color and sound hollow when you tap on the bottom of a roll.


And a finished product! Yes! Delicious with REAL butter!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


The season is flying by, and the garden is shooting up! And even though there are a few snow peas on the vines, and I made my first chocolate zucchini cake of the season, and there are a few blossoms on the nasturtiums, I don't really feel like the garden is "ready" until the tomatoes are ripe and plump and plentiful.

But that doesn't mean the garden isn't plentiful already! It's bursting forth with loads of hollyhocks, tarragon, mint, parsley, swiss chard, rosemary and just the beginnings of a large crop of basil. The lettuce season is just about over, as is the broccoli and cauliflower, but I have yet to see a brussels sprout or eat a green bean, so we still have a long way to go (though I do see the sprouts starting to form and there are little tiny beans on the bushes!).

What else is in the garden?

Red Raspberries and Yellow Squash...



Container Swiss Chard...

Hollyhocks and Scarecrows...

Radish-flavored Nasturtiums...

Lots and lots of tomato blossoms, and a few little bugs...


And more bees...

Enough basil to feed and army...

Mammoth Snow Peas...

Climbing Nasturiums (well, you can't see them *yet* but they'll be there before you know it!)...

Red beets, yellow beets, cantaloupe and watermelon...

Fennel and flowers...

More and more and more zucchini (Did you ever hear the defnition of a person without a friend? Someone who has to go to the store to buy a zucchini!)...

And there's also Asian pears, kittens, blueberries, okra, pigs, eggplant, chickens, some heirloom melons, puppies, lots and lots of flowers, herbs and, of course, children. :-)