No Knead Bread

A beautiful homemade bread you can make with minimal effort. The addition of beer adds a greater depth of flavour.

my ‘go to’ non-junk food comfort food (which I’m currently trying to rebadge discomfort food but with minimal success) is bread. Not any bread, proper bread. Sourdough or something wholesome. With a dish of extra virgin olive oil, drops of balsamic vinegar, sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper. I can eat that shit till my head falls off. Or my stomach so distended my arms can’t reach the bench anymore.

I have my firm favourite homemade bread which I firmly stuck to throughout the whole no knead bread fad. But the other day I had a hankering to try something new and of course it was my ‘ole mate Joke who came to the party with a recipe that hit the spot. You do need a cast iron pot with a lid but apart from that I am guessing you could go coco bananas with what sort of flour, beer and vinegar you use.

(Almost) No Knead Bread

Cook’s Illustrated.com

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavoured lager
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl and then add the water, beer and vinegar
  2. Fold the mixture together into a shaggy ball then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough 10 to 15 times – I then get a long piece of baking paper and place it in the bowl
  4. Shape the dough into ball by pulling edges into middle and then transfer it, seam-side down, to the baking-paper lined bowl. (see below – that glorious round of dough? Just 15 turns and it is that glorious)
  5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours
  6. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place your Dutch oven (with lid) on the rack, and heat oven to 250 degrees
  7. Lightly flour top of dough and, using a sharp knife, make a long 1cm deep slit along the top of the dough
  8. Then, taking care not to burn the crap out of your hands, wrists, arms, carefully lift the lid off the pot, transfer the dough and baking paper (hence a long piece of paper, so you can lift it and lower it) into the pot
  9. Put the lid back on and place in the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 200C and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown – about 20 to 30 minutes longer
  10. Carefully remove bread from pot, transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours*.

 

*Pfft as if that ever happens.

Pain Rustique

So many of you are aware of my recent obsession with making sourdough bread. I am now the proud owner of the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook so expect the obsession to pick up where it last waned.

The initial infatuation fell away when the family just wasn’t getting as into it as I was and there were issues with the level of rise I was getting from my doughs. A few years back some dear friends had given me Jeffrey Hamelman’s book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes and I decided to try some of his recipes which call for a poolish, or a starter that only requires 12-16 hours rather than weeks.

Enter centre stage the Pain Rustique. The loaf I now make for everything – loaves, free-form loaves, roasted garlic loaves, olive and rosemary loaves… endless. It is easy to make and divine to eat. DIVINE.

Oh, a tip from all the bread making aficionados – always use spring water not tap water.

Pain Rustique
From Jeffrey Hamelman, Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes

Poolish

  • 1 lb bread flour (3 5/8 cups)
  • 1 lb water (2 cups)
  • 1/8 tsp instant dry yeast

Final Dough

  • 1 lb bread flour (3 5/8 cups)
  • 6.1oz water (3/4 cup)
  • Poolish (2lb total)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast

To make the poolish

  1. Disperse the yeast in the water, add the flour and mix (by hand) until smooth. Cover with plastic and let stand for 12 to 16 hours at 70F. (I never really adhere to the room temperature guidelines, I mean, what are you going to do?? We don’t live in a humidor.)
To make the bread
  1. Combine the bread flour and water with the poolish in a mixing bowl and mix with a dough hook on the lowest speed until it comes together as a shaggy mess. Cover and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Add the yeast and salt and on the second speed mix together until the dough is fairly well developed (about 1.5-2 mins) – it should be supple and moderately loose (I take this term to mean quite wet)
  3. Bulk fermentation is 70 minutes
  4. 25 minutes into the bulk fermentation give a quick fold to the dough. This means put the dough on a very liberally floured bench. Pull a third of the dough from the left hand side into the middle and press down gently to expel some of the air. Do the same again from the right, then the top and the bottom, then return to the bowl.
  5. 25 minutes after the first fold do another one and return to the bowl.
  6. 20 minutes after the second fold turn the dough out onto a floured surface and rest for 15 minutes
  7. Gently divide the dough into the sizes you like and shape or place in bread tins
  8. Leave the dough for a final fermentation/proofing for 20 to 25 minutes.
  9. Cook in a 240C oven for about 35 minutes.  
The pain rustique with kalamata olives. There’s about 500g of pitted chopped kalamatas in for the recipe given above with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary finely chopped as well.

Sourdough – Part 1

I find a comfort in baking that nothing else provides. Baking bread takes that to a whole new level. Creating sourdough is in its own universe. It’s the organic nature of the process. The fact it takes time. That you have to use your hands. That there are variables you can not control, instead just having to take into account.

Having said that, my breadmaking skills have been a little light on the hit and sledgehammer like on the miss.
This, I have decided, is primarily due to my impatience and that I get a bit panicky – have I kneaded it too long? too little? is that the feeling of my earlobe (a tip once given to me by an old Chinese woman who was an expert at making dumplings)? oh God is it too wet? that seems really dry? is that doubled in size? When did I start that batch?
Sure, they were edible but they weren’t right. Besides, I wanted to be baking bread that I could use for sandwiches and the like, not just fancy foccacia type numbers that were a hit with dinner.
Couple that with my absolute adoration of a decent sourdough and my perpetual state of brokeness and you can see me leaving the land of dried yeast behind.
I found this book called Wild Sourdough and decided to take the plunge.
And you know what? Every single loaf has been fantastic. But it is the process that I find so enjoyable. Renewing my feeder each day, leaving a dough to rise in its own good time, air kneading a dough to a satisfying elasticity. And on and on I could go.
So how do you make sourdough? First you need your starter – a flour, water slurry which you leave to ferment, thus using the natural occurring yeasts in the flour as the rising agent.
That’s it. Yep, it’s that easy. Some tips though:
1. Try and get the best biodynamic/organic/unicorn endorsed flour you can find and/or afford
2. Only use spring water as tap water has flouride and chlorine in it which will kill the natural yeasts.
3. Use ceramic bowls and wooden utensils – avoid anything metallic
Combine equal parts of flour to water (use an electric scale). I started with 100g of flour to 100g of water.
After a couple of days (my rye starter had bubbles the next day, the white flour/spelt flour started took a little longer) there should be bubbles forming – add another round of flour and water and do this for a week. Then your starter is ready to use.
It.really.is.that.simple.
So go – get that underway.

Sourdough

The making of Suse’s sourdough.
A short story.

There is someone in our blogsphere who has a life I crave aspects of – the home with an outlook, the new kitchen, children at a Steiner school, the ability to knit, to name just a few. She makes bread. This is probably the pinnacle anyone can reach in my esteem.

So one day, she generously shared her sourdough recipe with the world. This caught me by surprise as some of her other baking efforts were well, funny looking.

I made the starter. It doesn’t look like hers. But it smells all fermenty and sour.

I followed the recipe. I may have forgotten one of the cups of flour, but am not sure. I (very very stupidly and completely due to total sleep deprivation) started making it after dinner with children everywhere and crying coming from what seemed like every possible orifice of all of them.

So I had to keep adding flour. And more flour. And more.

Due to my kneading insecurities I was leaving that job to the Kitchen Aid. Maybe this was part of the problem – kneading too fast? too long? Who knows. It kept ending up like a very smooth silken goop.

I sort of gave up, knowing it was going to be a leaden mass due to all of this. And then it was really late. So I moved it to the laundry to stop it rising anymore (it was cooler in there) and then faced it the following morning.

I cooked it, but as suspected, it was just a dense dense dense mass. The taste was sensational – a really decent sourdough flavour – and it had a really good crust (I can’t stand sourdough which has a soft crust) and tasted magnificent with salted butter.

Next time I’ll do all the kneading by hand and add a little more salt.

But still the cooking mojo is not quite as it should be. (And you know, when I cook something that doesn’t hit the mark or is not quite right, it affects my mood. Greatly.)

Suse’s Sourdough*

The starter
2 cups tepid water
2 cups bread flour (a good quality all purpose flour with a high protein content)
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Mix together in a ceramic or glass bowl with a wooden spoon (do not use metal bowls or implements)
Sit the starter, covered, in a warm location for a week, gently stirring once a day.

When you use some of your starter to make a loaf, you must ‘feed’ the remaining starter with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water.
If you don’t use your starter once a week, throw away a cup of it and feed it with fresh flour and water.
It can also be frozen if you are going away on holiday. On your return, thaw it in the fridge, and then when thawed, remove a cupful and feed as usual.

The dough
1/2 cup tepid water
1 cup sourdough starter
2 1/4 cup bread flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 tbsp yeast

Mix the ingredients together, turn out onto a bench and knead. Return to the bowl and let rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and knead gently, pulling all the creases to the bottom.
Place the dough smooth side down into a bowl lined with a floured teatowel.
Cover and stand in a warm location for an hour or until doubled in size.
Turn the bowl onto a greased oven tray and gently remove the teatowel.
Score the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.
Bake on the middle shelf of a hot (210 celsius) oven with a dish of boiling water on the bottom shelf to create steam, for 20 minutes.
Reduce to a moderate (180 celsius) heat and bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

*For the original with glorious pictures, visit Suse here. Suse – if I’ve got any of this wrong, let me know and I’ll amend it!

** UPDATED **
So I know make it following the recipe above and knead it by hand for 9 minutes. It is a wet dough so I just add more flour as required as I knead it. I then give it a light knockback, shape it as I want and let it rise the second time.

For an olive loaf, roughly chop 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives and fold through after you’ve knocked it back.