Saturday, May 2, 2009
No-Knead Bread Can Save Your Life
I have just returned from a three-day field trip to Gettsyburg and Philadelphia, PA. I was one of the chaperones for my daughter's fifth grade class.
Besides learning a lot about American history and having several ghostly encounters in what is considered one of the most haunted places in America, I found out how dangerous breadmaking can really be.
Jennie Wade, the only civilian who died in the Battle of Gettysburg, was killed instantly by an errant bullet while she was kneading bread dough for hungry soldiers in her sister's kitchen.
Perhaps if Jennie Wade had known about no-knead bread, she could have retired to the safety of the cellar as her bread rose and the bullets flew overhead.
Do you know what happened after Jennie died? The soldiers were so hungry that they asked her mother to finish baking the 15 loaves of bread that Jennie had started. And she did.
** If you haven't been to Gettysburg and Philadelphia, it's worth the trip. The sacrifice of the soldiers on both sides, the heroism of the citizenry, the sorrow and gruesome reality of war, and the impact of multiple individual decisions on the course of history are all here.
The Gettysburg National Park Service and Visitor Center Museum is masterfully done, the "Lights of Liberty" tour in Philadelphia will appeal to all types of learners, and the Franklin Institute, a science museum in Philadelphia, is definitely a must-go. If you're going to tour the Gettysburg battlegrounds, I highly recommend getting a park ranger guide who will drive your car and will explain how the battle unfolded.
This bread is incredibly easy to make -- no breadmaking experience necessary -- and its soft, tender, and open crumb will have you at first bite.
If you want to see the evolution of this bread recipe, Food&Whine has done an excellent summary.
Adapted from Mark Bittman and The New York Times
Time: About 1-1/2hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
Clockwise from top-left: Dough after its 18-hour rise; dough on greased parchment paper in a 10-inch skillet that has finished its two-hour rise and is ready for the oven; bread is ready at 210 degrees internal temperature; finished bread, with a golden crust and tender interior.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1-1/2-pound loaf.
NINETTE'S NOTE: In step #4, I used the Cook's Illustrated technique and put the dough on greased parchment paper in a ten-inch skillet instead of on a floured cotton towel for its final rising. Then, when you transfer the dough to the dutch oven, you just pick up the parchment paper with the dough on it, put it into the dutch oven, and cook it on the paper. The bread is done when it reaches an internal temp. of 210 degrees.