Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fast-forward bread

Some of you may have gotten excited about some articles that were floating around a few years back for no-knead bread. I read this one on the lovely Amateur Gourmet Blog and was pretty nuts about the idea. Not nuts enough to actually do it at the time mind you, so I filed it in my mental archive for one fine day when I'd feel like making bread. Well, today is the day!

But guess what? That recipe says the bread needs to rise overnight, plus another 2 hours! It was 3:00 pm when I read the recipe closely, so time was not on my side!

Then I had a flashback of some sturdy lady yelling at us in some high school home ec class or another:

"There are two things that make yeast excited, ladies: sugar and warmth!"

That's when I noticed the New York Times recipe did not have sugar, did not call for warm water, and did not tell you to keep your dough warm while rising. And since I'm a betting woman, I bet those are the reasons you'd have to let that dough rise for 12+2 hours.

So now guess what? With a few adjustments, you don't need to let the dough rise for 12 + 2 hours at all. I just added sugar, and only let mine rise for an hour, plus a bit while my oven heated up, and the bread was excellent. I probably lost something in flavour or texture, and I will try the overnight method when I have more time, but this bread was fantastic.

We had it with this wonderful Yellow Split Pea Soup from Heidi Swanson's beloved 101
Cookbooks blog.

And away we go!

1. Turn on your oven and let it get warm while you complete step 2.

2. Mix the following things together in a bowl and stir well with a fork:

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (I used brown)

3. Turn the oven off! Add 1 5/8 cups water to the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, put it in the warm oven and go do something else for an hour, or as much time as you have.

5. After at least an hour, take the bowl out of the oven and shape the dough into a ball. Put it back in the bowl and cover it.

6. Turn the oven back on to preheat it to 450 degrees, and put the pan you plan to use in the oven to heat it.

6. When the oven is heated, carefully take the pan out of the oven, put the dough in it, put a lid on it, and bake it for half an hour. Then take the lid off and bake for another 20 minutes or so.

And presto! You have yourself a really lovely loaf of bread that tastes like it came from some fancy bakery in some quaint European neigbourhood.

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