Category Archives: Bakery

No Knead Bread Journal + A Confession

I have a confession to make. And in light of the actual topic of this post, it’s going to be a bit weird. Bear with me.

You know how you have that blog/tumblr rabbithole you go down when you are mindlessly web surfing? For some it’s mommy blogs even though you don’t have kids, others maybe interior design even though you rent your apartment and have no intention of making it look any better, or maybe you just get stuck in an endless buzzfeed.com loop of cat gifs (we’ve all been there).

So for me, one of my web vortexes is paleo cooking blogs.

Now, this isn’t completely baseless. I am very active, and have gone through periods of intense training for various endurance events. Paleo and training go hand-in-hand in many fitness cults circles (looking at you here). And many of the paleo bloggers are legit cooks and good writers.

I actually find the paleo lifestyle fascinating, and some days I’m like hey, I haven’t eaten any grains today, go me! (not that no grains = victory, but of note, perhaps to balance out other cookie-heavy days). In general, I feel like people should eat how they want to eat. Or as Michael Ruhlman put it so succinctly and brilliantly earlier this year: Cook your own food. Eat what you want. (Think for yourself). Words to live by, if I ever heard any.

But here’s the thing — I think that bread is one of the greatest things that we as human society have ever created.

I could eat toast at every meal. Before I eat a piece of freshly baked bread, I hold it up to my nose and inhale deeply, to smell that satisfying yeasty bread smell. My last meal would be grilled cheese, slices of salted buttered bread, and cinnamon-sugar toast for dessert. Bread is the generic placeholder in idioms about our most basic needs as well as our greatest achievements.

So with that introduction, this post is the first in a series about one of my favorite things: bread. More specifically, the no knead bread method. I’m calling it my no knead bread journal.

The no knead bread recipe I use comes from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, after it was famously published by Mark Bittman in the New York Times in 2006. Its premise is a minimalist technique that lets time do the work, instead of lots of yeast and kneading. Which essentially means: you dump the ingredients in a bowl, let them hang out for a day or so, take the dough out and shape it, let it hang out for a few more hours, preheat a pot in the oven, dump the dough into the hot pot, and bake it. And that’s it. It is both better and easier than most other bread recipes. Then you win.

I started with the classic recipe, linked to above. But then as many cooks do, I began to tinker. And now I actually keep a log of the variations I try, and how they end up. It’s just a google doc with the classic recipe at the top, and then my experiments in a running log below.

My first round of experimenting aimed for something a bit more hearty, with whole wheat flour, maybe some millet or seeds. More of a weekday bread. But using 100% whole wheat flour turns out to produce a very very dense loaf. I went down the no knead google rabbithole for a while, and learned that adding vital wheat gluten helps add some of the airiness back into whole wheat breads, so I gave that a try, and the recipe is below. The resulting loaf was crisp and crackly on the outside, tender and moist on the inside.

Here’s to bread.

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(Mostly) Whole Wheat Sunflower Flax Bran Bread
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Cranberry Walnut Buttermilk Bread

So, it’s not remotely cranberry season, but do you know how long those suckers last in the refrigerator? A really long time! Six months and counting! A half-full carton of cranberries had been haunting the back of my fridge since Thanksgiving, and inspiration was just not hitting. A quickbread seemed like the obvious choice, but many of them call for dried cranberries, and well, I wanted to find one that called for fresh. I finally frankensteined a recipe for Cranberry Nut Bread from Simply Recipes to the point that it’s barely recognizable, and what resulted is a barely sweet rustic loaf with a tender crumb and crunchy crust, studded with cranberries and walnuts. Perfect for slathering with butter, peanut butter, and my most recent favorite, nutella. I even melted some shahp cheddah cheese on a piece last night and it was divine.

So, if you’ve got some old cranberries knocking around in your fridge or freezer, here is your vehicle. If not, well, forgive my insensitivity for seasonality, and make a mental note to come back to this one in November.

Cranberry Walnut Buttermilk Bread
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Pizza with Sage Pesto, Kale and a Fried Egg!

I’m back!

I’d like to start this post by giving thanks: for finishing my master’s degree, for the absolutely slammin weather that is gracing DC right now, and most of all, for the fact that I have people in my life that understand that it is not only appropriate, but entirely welcome to bring a trash bag full of kale to my apartment as a gift (lookin at you, here, mom). In this season of greens, I have been embarking on all sorts of different versions of the “greens challenge,” (How much mesclun greens can I eat in one week?? A devastating amount, it turns out). But a kale challenge is a welcome one, being that kale occupies such a vaunted seat in my culinary house.

So, kale, lots of time on my hands, some sage pesto chilling in the fridge, enthusiasm for yeast doughs… Kale Pizza with Sage Pesto and a Fried Egg! No other conclusion was possible. Eaten on my balcony with a good friend, some gin-lemonades, and a stormy weather pattern passing over the afternoon. Feels good to be back.

Pizza with Sage Pesto, Kale, and Fried Eggs
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Healthified Apple Muffins

You’ll notice a lot of apple goodness on this blog. Counting this post, 28.5 percent of my posts, as of today, are apple-related. This is not a coincidence, my friends. In my opinion, apples are one of nature most impressive and hard-working creations. Despite being hybridized or GMO-ed into all sorts of pathetic excuses for fruit like some of the mealy mush you get at the grocery stores these days (I’m looking at you, Red Delicious), pick your apples carefully and you will be rewarded with a crisp bite, balanced sweetness, and a hit of tartness that you can keep on your counter or in your backpack or purse for many moons to enjoy.

I find quickbreads and muffins to be excellent vehicles for apples, exemplified by this made-over recipe for apple muffins from King Arthur Flour. I have one friend who does not like baked fruit anything. No blueberry muffins, no apple pie, no peach cobbler. I contemplated ending our friendship, but he has too many other good friend qualities, like helping me stuff and truss a whole leg of lamb a few years ago for Easter. So he stays, but he won’t enjoy these apple muffins, healthified or not. My other (former) friend who didn’t like mangoes, however? Done. History. There are some lines I will not cross. But I digress.

I believe in butter, sugar, and real eggs. That fake stuff really freaks me out in fact. Eggs in a milk carton? With who knows what else mixed in to ‘preserve’ and ‘stabilize’? No thanks. But sometimes it’s good to lighten things up a bit. With this guiding idea, I’ve tweaked King Arthur’s recipe to trim the fat, so to speak, although I can attest that the original muffins are also quite delicious. But around the holidays, when I’ve made this and eaten it with ice cream and whipped cream, and want to make this and these, well, it’s good to find a few places to cut back.

This recipe works for muffins or mini-loaves. Didn’t try it with a full-sized loaf pan, but I imagine it would if you adjust the baking time and bring the baking temp down to 350 or 375. If you overmix the buttermilk and it curdles, don’t worry. It will come back together during baking.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
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