Bread, plain and simple

Hi Karla,

So, today I made bread, which you already know about since I talked to you a bunch today (setting up this blog and what not) and I already sent you one picture. 

Bill and I have been into making bread for some time now, but we haven’t quite gotten it together. It’s probably been about 5 months or so since we bought all the fixings for making Russian Black Bread. If you don’t know much about Russian black bread, I can tell you this: It’s not for the amateur bread maker, which we discovered much to our chagrin. It uses white, wheat and rye flower, coffee, nuts, lots of spices, cocoa powder and much more. It’s a really rich, 18-ingredient bread. (Or something like that.) 

Needless to say, the bread came out a powdery, though edible, mess. We ate what we could and trashed the rest. Since then I have been looking for some good bread recipes for the more amateur bread maker. Thankfully, Smitten Kitchen always comes to the rescue. Deb has a great no-knead bread (which is what this is called on her website.) I was very intrigued by the no-knead part, since kneading bread is one of the most confusing parts (unless you have a stand mixer, which I don’t.) 

I’ll start here with the recipe, which is very simple.

No-Kneed Bread
from Smitten Kitchen

3 cups flour
1/3 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 5/8 cups water

You mix all the dry ingredients (flour, yeast, salt) and then mix in the water. This is very easy, and doesn’t require any sort of special mixer. Just a spoon (I used wooden, but would go metal the next time) or your hands. The resulting dough is VERY sticky and a little hard to handle. But that’s great because you don’t have to! Just cover the bowl you mixed it in with plastic wrap and put in a warm dry space. Wait 12-18 hours.

I waited 18 hours, the more highly recommended time. By that time, the dough had more than tripled and looked like this:
 

Phase 2: dough rising part deux.

Flour a work surface and dump out the dough, scraping any gooey bits that stick to the bowl. flour your hands well and roll it over on itself a few times. Cover lightly with the same saran wrap and wait 15 min. 

After letting it rest, get two clean cotton kitchen towels. You’ll have to move the dough to the side, but place the first kitchen towel down on your work space and flour it generously. Form the dough into a ball and place it seam-side down on the floured cloth. Then lightly flour the top of the dough and place the second cloth on top. Looks like this:

It should rise for two hours.

Phase 3: oven.

After the two hours, the dough should have about doubled in shape. 15 to 30 minutes before the dough reaches the two-hour mark, preheat the oven to 450 and stick a large, heavy, covered pot (cast iron, pyrex, enamel or ceramic) in there to heat up with it.

When the dough is ready, take the top towel off and use the bottom towel to dump the dough into the bottom of the (in my case) cast iron pot. Some of your loose flour will dump in with it, which is fine. If there is too much flour on the top, you can brush it away, but you should be just fine. 

Put the pot in the oven and cover it. Let that bake for 30 min. Try not to peek into the oven too often (picture):

After 30 minutes, take the top off the pot and let it continue to bake for 15-30 minutes (until it browns.) Mine only took 15. 

Hilariously, my bread crust seems to have taken on the pattern of my towels. It’s actually quite lovely, but was by no means planned. I just want to take a moment to point out how amazing my cast iron dutch oven is. I literally use it All.The.Time. since I got it from Bill for my birthday. Now I just need a cast iron skillet.

Phase 4: Stare for long periods of time at the beautiful the finished product…

No really. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it for about 10 minutes. Probably because it represented two days of work. Can I mention how much I love cooking!?

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