Sunday, March 18, 2012

Almost No-Knead bread

Good grief, is this recipe a disaster. So many raves about bread in five minutes a day, inspired by Jim Lahey's recipe from the NYT, and I want so much to be that family! Fresh bread! Nourishing through the creative artistry of your two, thoughtful hands!

I've tried this recipe only three or four times, with a mixed range of mediocre results. And nevermind that it takes me a full five or 10 minutes to figure out when to start the process in order to get bread by dinnertime, without doing any of the steps in the middle of the night. I found the recipe improved with two tablespoons of sugar added (not so granola, I know, but I was worried to try honey and the flavor is so lifeless without it).

This try was the best so far: the yeast responded, the dough was alive and playful, the finished loaf light and hollow with a pleasant tone. At every step it looked as it was described, except— it is very flat, yielding a thin slice and I have no idea why. Oh except I just realized this minute: Maybe if I used a smaller pot, I would get more of a boule that is taller than wide. Duh. I may be using an 8-qt dutch oven and that may be too big?

Also, there are so many air bubbles I wonder what else has gone awry in the process. I used to work with a guy who was big into bread baking—he had starters all over his tiny kitchen and living room, on top of the TV armoire—and he had a bread guru who advised him. After a successful loaf, my friend would scan in a slice of bread, and email it to the guru, who could tell him what should be adjusted in the process simply by the shape and placement of the air bubbles.

I'm glad that guru is not around to evaluate this loaf. I don't think I have time for the litany of advice he likely would offer.

Techman deemed it a success, however, and it has made for good snacking throughout the weekend with some almond butter or peanut butter, or as toast.

But I don't think it's half as easy or successful as Pioneer Woman's garlic bubble bread. I'm also very intrigued by this Irish soda bread recipe, which I discovered at about hour 20 of the 23-hour no-knead process. (They said it was no-knead, they didn't say it was quick.)

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