The {Famous} NY Times- No Knead Bread

Outside the world is coated in snow, but I’ve been living in a flour dusted apartment for over a week now- and I think you’ll be glad that I did. What fun I have had making this ridiculously easy and wildly famous No Knead Bread.

The recipe made its debut in 2006 in Mark Bittman’s, The Minimalist column in the NY Times. I tore out the recipe from that printing, and it kicked around my office for years. From time to time I would look at it and think that I should give it a try, but never did. When I moved last year it got lost in the shuffle, but I never forgot the idea.

It has been a long standing tradition of mine to bake bread in the early part of the year. It’s hard to explain why, but it’s somewhere in the “monarch butterfly migration” part of my brain. Without thought or plan, I find myself reaching for yeast every January and February. There is no explaining it, it just seems to happen.

Over the years I’ve done quite a bit of perfecting and experimenting of different methods and recipes. My favorite method has always been to make a poolish first, which makes a gorgeous, chewy bread with a crispy crust. My only complaint is it’s a long project that requires a lot of tending. A great thing for a snow bound weekend, such as this one, but for practical reasons it’s tough to make as a regular habit. For some reason, the latent memory of this recipe came back to mind last week, and I went on a search for it. Happily it was not hard to find.

The only similarity between the two methods is that no knead recipe takes as many hours on the clock, but with so little hands on involvement, it’s almost comical. To make this bread all it takes is measuring out the ingredients, mixing them with a SPOON, letting the mess rest for 12-24 hours, shaping it, and baking it! The result is a bread that is so gorgeous and delicious which, after I stop laughing in delight, I found myself sniggering while looking the window of an artisanal bread bakery yesterday. “Pfft!”, I thought, “I can do that!” Shame on me for sure, but it’s hard not to get a little cocky!

This recipe is the brainchild of Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery, who devised the recipe as a minimalist technique to bread baking, that anyone could make. The magic to this beauty is in the science. The recipe uses very little yeast, and the water content is very high. Another big difference is that the proofing time is extremely long and slow. Apparently the wetness of the dough, and the long rising time, allows the gluten molecules to align themselves into long strands, creating elasticity, thus eliminating the necessity to do laborious kneading to develop those strands. The high moisture content also creates a beautiful crackly, crust by providing steam from its own moisture during the baking process.

The other difference is the bread is baked in a preheated enamel pot within the oven, which creates an environment for the steam to circulate within, developing that crunchy crust. In professional bakeries they manage this step with built in steam jets, or some people have been known to spray the bread during the baking with water, (raising hand), which is a bit scary as the steam kicks back in your face, while quite a bit of heat dumps out of the oven and into the kitchen. I’ve never been a fan.

The pot I used is a 5 Quart oval Le Creuset Dutch Oven, like this one, which I highly recommend. The oval shape allows you to get your hands into the pot on the long ends of the oval when you drop the dough in. I’ve read of other folks that have used cast iron pots, and even glass casseroles, which apparently work fine. If you have a round pot and get antsy about slipping the dough into the raging hot pot, you can use some parchment paper, which functions as a handle when dropping into the pot (as I have demonstrated in the photo below). This step can save you some anxiety, and make moving the dough easier.

You can find the original recipe HERE, but I’ve made a few other tweaks that I will share with you.

Most everything remains the same with two notable exceptions. First off, I don’t use cornmeal on my board when I turn the dough out. I found that a reasonable dusting of flour is just fine. I’ve been making so much bread lately that I now have a pastry cloth that is dedicated to bread making. The cloth is saturated with flour so it is forever stick free. It does not need to be washed. I simply give it a good shake into the sink, and then store it in a plastic bag when not in use.

The second tweak, as I mentioned, is I have taken to making cuts in the top of my bread, which assists the rise and I think looks nice. Without the cuts I find that the bread will get great cracks, a beautiful rustic look that you might enjoy. Making the cuts assist in the “baking bump” or the rise during the baking, which also makes a rounder loaf. Without that lift, I found my dough a bit too dense and wet for my taste. A longer baking time will eliminate some of that wetness if you prefer to not make the cuts (another 10-15 mins).

I made quite a few loaves this week, testing and retesting my changes. Very early on, after making just two plain loaves, I decided to throw in a few things for fun. The bread above had a generous handful of chopped black olives and rosemary. The bread below had dried cranberries and pepitas tossed into it. Both turned out beautifully, which opens the door for many other possibilities. I invite you to experiment with your own.  I simply added the extras during the last strokes of mixing the dough. Simple as that.

This is one recipe that I really hope that you try. That is, if you’re not already a convert.

I would really LOVE to see what you have done with this recipe. Please comment and post a link to your bread- and please share any insights you may have. I am really interested to hear, and see, what you have done.

The NY Times No Knead Bread
Many people have posted this recipe, and there are quite a few variations. I have made quite a few loaves this week so that I feel very confident about my method. I’ve read of others using gluten free flours, which may work to a point, but without the gluten, you won’t get the same chewiness and rise. You can find the original recipe HERE.
 
makes one loaf
 
3 c all purpose, unbleached flour or bread flour
.25 t instant yeast
1.5t salt
1.5 c water (warm or cold is fine)
 
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Give it a quick stir to incorporate.
 
Pour in the water, and with a spoon, stir until blended and all the flour is incorporated. The dough will be rough and shaggy, almost like a scone dough, and fairly sticky. This step needs to only take one minute. 
 
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit out on the counter for at least 12 hours and up to 24, I baked mine around 14 hours. No need for a “warm” spot, room temperature is fine. The warmer your kitchen though, the quicker the rise.
 
The dough will be ready when the surface is level and bubbly. 
Preheat the oven to 450˚, with the enamel pot inside, and with the lid on.
 
While the oven is heating, turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. The dough will be VERY sticky and stringy. With well floured hand, fold the dough a few times over onto itself, and then shape it into a ball. Other shapes work well too, btw, such as a longer loaf (rolls anyone?)
 
The shaping of the dough should only take a minute or two. No need to knead.
 
If you’re using parchment, dust the paper and lay the dough on top. Other wise, let the dough rest on a well floured surface for an additional 30 minutes. Cover with the plastic wrap.
 
Note: the oven will come to temperature well before the dough has risen, but you really want the enamel pan to be super hot, so that extra heating time is perfect.
 
About 20 minutes after you have shaped the dough, using a sharp or serrated knife, make cuts about .75″ deep into the top of the bread. Then let rest the final 10 minutes.
 
When ready, open the oven and remove the lid of the pot with a cloth or potholder. Either lift the parchment paper, or with well floured hands, carefully lift the dough and lay it into the pot. There is no need to grease the pan. It absolutely will not stick.
 
Using the potholder, replace the pan lid and slide the pot back into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15 until the bread is browned and beautiful.
 
When ready, I use a cloth and simply grab the bread out of the pot and place it on a wire rack to cool. 
 
Because the pot is so heavy and hot, I simply leave it in the oven and let it cool in the turned off oven. Alternatively you can carefully remove the pot from the oven and allow it to cool. Warning* the lid, after you’ve removed from the oven will retain its heat for quite awhile, so please use protection when handling it until you are quite sure it is cool.
 
It’s tempting to want to cut into the loaf right out of the oven, but it’s better to give it a several minutes to cool. During that time you can sit back and revel in your handiwork, and enjoy the music of the crust making crackling noises. 
 
Bread baking is soul satisfying, I hope you can take the time to enjoy the full experience.
 
 

The After Feast- and Gingerbread

Stacks of Dishes with my morning Gingerbread
The gathering was easy and the company divine. Good food, delicious laughs and familial ease. It was a lovely day, one of the nicest I’ve had with my family in awhile. We were a small group, so there was plenty of opportunity to share and really get to speak with one another. My children are adults now and starting to point themselves into different directions. It’s one of the hardships when pulling together large groups. I love to entertain large raucous crowds, it’s so nice to “see” everyone, but I always leave feeling like I didn’t get a chance to really visit.
Yesterday was a sweet day for visiting. The sunny afternoon was filled with relaxed talk while my Mother and my son leaned back into couches, Olivia danced with herself in the corner as we put the desserts together, and my Uncle Joe told me stories of my Grandfather- who passed when I was too young to know him- as I put on the coffee. Priceless ease.
My favorite time, once the evening is over, is the quiet morning after. I’m a bit of a pain in that I really don’t like people cleaning up my kitchen. It’s not that I’m such a control freak or anything, it’s that there is something beautifully zen about the sound of soapy water, and the clattering of dishes and silver while I review the events of the evening. There is ceremony in the storing away of platters and serving pieces- my loved things amongst loved ones, now put to rest until the next gathering. As I look around there are remnants of the evening imprinted in the dents in the pillows, crumbs on the carpet, and scattered smudgy wine glasses. It all tells a story, and every story touches me. Beauty.
The morning held no rush for me. Everyone had headed off into the evening to their own homes so I was left to myself in the morning light to putter and fuss. This year for Thanksgiving my fiancee is at home in Louisiana with her family. It’s hard to juggle families and holidays. I know so many that have to do it, it’s not like I can complain really, it’s just that she is also my family, and it’s hard to be separated. This fact just made my morning that much quieter and that much more introspective.

Late yesterday, after finishing all my dinner preparations, I had a small chunk of time and a half a can of pumpkin left over. Since the oven was already on I pulled together a tasty Gingerbread for my after-feast breakfast. A simple homey tea cake.

This quick bread is SUPER moist with a nice mellow hit of molasses and a tender bite of ginger. The pumpkin doesn’t reveal itself, it merely adds moisture and depth. As you can see it slices quite nicely and could even do with a toasting and a pat of butter if that’s your preference.

I sliced mine up super thin to enjoy with my milky latte. It was a nice quiet moment in the morning light, before I began my post feast ritual.

Morning After Moist Gingerbread
makes one 4″x11″ loaf~ enough to serve 8-10
 
.5 can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 large eggs
.5 c vegetable oil
.75c water
.5 c molasses
1c white sugar
1.75c all purpose flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1t ground cinnamon
1t freshly grated nutmeg
2T freshly grated ginger
 
Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease 4″ x 11″ loaf pan
 
In medium bowl combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, molasses and sugar. Stir smooth.
 
In large bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
 
Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl and stir just until incorporated. This makes a fairly wet batter.
 
Gently spoon into the loaf pan and spread evenly.
 
Place pan into the center of the preheated oven and bake. After ~40 minutes test for doneness- Gently pressing on the top of the cake. When it is springy to the touch is it done. Alternatively use a toothpick to poke into center of cake. When the toothpick comes out clean it’s done.
 
Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan.
 
 
 
 
 
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
 
 

 

Before the Rush- Healthy Pumpkin Cookies for Thanksgiving Breakfast

Earlier this year I resolutely put my foot down about not preparing Thanksgiving dinner. I have since had to pick that foot right back up. My initial reaction was to groan- but it did not take long for me to get excited about pulling together a meal for my dear ones.

The challenge really is to host 8 adults in my teeny NYC apartment with my teeny NYC apartment kitchen. It will work. I’ll borrow chairs, rearrange my office and use my desk (which is a dining table), and have a “barn raising” of a holiday table. There is space in my living room/dining room/kitchen to set up the table in advance- but then there would be a literal elephant in the room which we can do without for the entire evening.

Nah, we’ll hang around my coffee table, the kitchen is open to the entire place (thankfully) and we can commune and visit and cook together. When the bird is ready, I’ll enlist everyone’s help to pull in the table, set china and linens and start the feast.  I’m sure the Indians kept house in just this way when the Pilgrims arrived. The family huddled around the fire, while the women bustled about- something like that… Anyway, it’s what I’ve got. I’m lucky, my family all likes each other.

I know that the internet is groaning with cranberry sauce recipes, pumpkin pie, turkey etc- Nothing wrong with any of that. It’s just that breakfast that morning tends to get lost in the sauce. It’s tricky right? You’re hungry and all, but you know you’ve got some serious eats heading your way soon- and you don’t want to get in trouble for opening the fridge too many times…

Enter my healthy pumpkin oat cookies. At the ready for all lazy wakers. Just get that coffee going, set out the plate and there you go. All holiday like with it’s pumpkin and spice, and hearty and healthy to get the day off to a good start. You can make them in advance too. They freeze nicely so you don’t need to be mixing and baking first thing.

Happy Thanksgiving all. Much to be grateful for these days- and still so many that need grace and support.

Keep those home fires burning.

Healthy Pumpkin Oat Breakfast Cookies
You can add into this an array of different things. Switch the nuts for raisins or dried cranberries etc.
 
Makes 12-14 cookies
 
.5c canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 large egg
1t vanilla
3T vegetable oil
2T molasses
.5c white sugar
.75c white flour
1.5c rolled oats
.25t baking powder
1.5t baking soda
.5t salt
1.5t ground cinnamon
.25t ground nutmeg
1c toasted walnuts
 
 
 
Preheat oven to 350˚ and prepare 2 cookie sheets.
 
In a medium sized bowl combine the pumpkin, egg, vanilla, oil, molasses and sugar. Stir to combine.
 
In a larger bowl sift together the flour, bp, bs, salt and spices. Add the oats and stir.
 
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir well. It will make a stiff batter. Gently add the nuts.
 
Drop large spoonfuls of the batter onto the baking sheet and spread into a flat-ish disk. 
 
I had some leftover pumpkin seeds that I put on top, but you can omit these.
 
Bake in the center of the oven for approximately 12 minutes. Test by gently pressing on the cookies. They should feel firm to the touch.
 
Allow to cool before diving in.