Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The need to knead

OK. A coupla updates and then, as it should always be, some bread.

For the first time all summer, I won't have a "Cooking Away My CSA" this week. We spent the weekend in Disney World and weren't around to pick up our latest box. The trip was great, but I'm now enduring a veggie drought. Just a few more days, though.

I returned to school after the long weekend today a couple of hours late, after dropping The Kid at his first day of kindergarten. My partner had already made our challah dough and I dove in on dough for Soft Roll Knots. In the first batch, I wasn't thinking and added active-dry yeast (which must be reconstituted in liquid) directly into the flour. (Maybe I was still dreaming of Mickey Mouse. Or pre-occupied with my little guy's first day of kindergarten.) We realized the mistake after kneading the dough and had to start over. Not sure what happened with the second batch, but it turned out much too stiff. We beat it into submission, though, and have a pan of knotted rolls and another pan of cloverleafs ready to bake tomorrow.

A smoother day tomorrow, right?

Anyway, I'm working on a newspaper piece about no-knead bread books. There are a whole bunch of them that have either come out recently or are being released this fall.

I never quite understood the whole "no-knead" phenomenon. I rather enjoy the act of kneading and have been underwhelmed by some of the no-knead breads I've tried.

But I'm loving the breads in Nancy Baggett's "Kneadlessly Simple." Sure, there's no kneading. But the real trick of these breads is the long, slow rise under cool temperature. (She even calls for super-cold ice water in every recipe.) And do you know what you get from bread that's been allowed to rise a day or more? Flavor. And lots of it. And whether you love to knead or are petrified of it, everybody likes flavor, right?

I just pulled a couple loaves of this All-Purpose Light Wheat Bread out of the oven. I'm impressed by the depth of flavor and the great rise:

And we all loved this Easy Oat Bread (pictured at the top of this post). Perfect for those kindergarten PB&Js.

Easy Oat Bread
From "Kneadlessly Simple" by Nancy Baggett
Makes 2 loaves

5 1/2 cups (27.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour or unbleached white bread flour, plus more as needed
1 cup old-fashioned oats or quick-cooking (not instant) oats, plus 4 tablespoons for garnish
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Scant 2 3/4 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon instant, fast-rising or bread-machine yeast
1/4 cup clover honey or light molasses
1/4 cup corn oil or other flavorless vegetable oil, plus extra for coating dough top and pans
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed

In a very large bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, oats, sugar, salt and yeast. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, thoroughly whisk the honey (or molasses) and oil into the water. Thoroughly stir the water mixture into the larger bowl, scraping down the sides until the ingredients are
thoroughly blended. If the mixture is too dry to incorporate all the flour, a bit at a time, stir in just enough more water to blend in ingredients; don't over-moisten, as the dough should be stiff. Brush or spray the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. For best flavor, refrigerator the dough for 3 to 10 hours.

Let rise at cool room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. If possible, vigorously stir once during the rise.

For the second rise, vigorously stir the dough. If necessary, stir in enough more flour to yield a hard-to-stir dough. Generously oil two 8 1/2 X 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Sprinkle a tablespoon of oats in each. Tip the pans back and forth to spread the oats over the bottom and sides. Use well-oiled kitchen shears or a serrated knife to cut the dough into two equal portions.
Put the portions in the pan. Brush or spray the tops with oil. Press and smooth the dough evenly into the pans with an oiled rubber spatula or fingertips. Sprinkle a tablespoon of oats over each loaf; press down to imbed. Make a 1/2-inch deep slash lengthwise down the center of each loaf using oiled kitchen shears or a serrated knife. Tightly cover the pans with nonstick spray-coated plastic wrap.

Let stand covered with plastic at warm room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, until the dough nears the plastic. Remove the plastic and let rise 1/2 inch above the pans.

Fifteen minutes before baking, place rack in lower third of oven and heat to 375 degrees.

Bake on lower rack for 50 to 60 minutes, until the tops are well browned. If necessary, cover tops with foil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few crumbs. (Or until a thermometer in the center registers 208 to 210 degrees.) Bake for 5 minutes longer to be sure the centers are done. Cool in pans for 15 minutes. Turn out the loaves onto racks and cool thoroughly.

Cool well before slicing or storing. Best served toasted. Store airtight in plastic or aluminum foil.

1 comment:

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