Can’t Stop Baking No-Knead Artisan Bread

 

fullsizeoutput_9e3Forgive me if I repeat myself, but I continue to be amazed at how simple it is for a home cook to turn out a bread like this.   Anyone who’s never tried bread baking for fear of failure or of time-consuming hands-on work should just set all that aside and jump on this bandwagon of no-knead artisan baking.

Do you have an oven?  Check.  Do you have a cast iron Dutch oven with 4-6 quart capacity?  Check.  Now all you need is a few readily available ingredients and a bit of planning for the 10 hours it will take your dough to work its magic before you touch it again a half hour before baking.

The quality of your flour and yeast is essential for success.  I’ve been baking bread on and off for over 25 years with various bread flours and with all-purpose flour enhanced with vital wheat gluten.  I have never worked with anything that comes close to Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour for outstanding results.

The package has your basic recipe, to which I’ve added the technique of using a parchment sling, the dusting of flour and the slashes across the top for that genuine artisan look.  And for this latest loaf, I tried something that worked to both amp up the leavening and a bit of sourdough taste – two tablespoons of plain yogurt mixed in with the warm water.  With or without the yogurt, when this bread comes out of your oven you’ll be patting yourself on the back and making excuses to do it again and again.

BASIC NO-KNEAD ARTISAN BREAD

(ADAPTED FROM BOB’S RED MILL)

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour, plus more for dusting later

2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp SAF instant yeast (or other high quality instant yeast)

2 tbsp plain yogurt (I used goat milk yogurt) plus enough lukewarm water to measure 1-1/2 cups; or simply 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water

PREPARATION:

Plan to start this either early in the morning so you can bake right before dinner, or late at night to be baked the next morning.  In a 5-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and yeast.  In a small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, stir together the yogurt and lukewarm water.  If not using yogurt, just use 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water.

With a sturdy silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir the liquid into dry ingredients until it all looks like a soft, ragged dough.  Make sure to get all the bits of dry flour that might cling to your bowl.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap – not touching the dough – and set it aside for 10 hours.  I stash mine in the microwave overnight to protect it from mischievous cats.

Meanwhile, go about whatever activities you normally do, including possibly sleep, and come back to this 10 hours later.  This is what you should see:

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Amazing, huh?  Yes, it’s alive.  Now, place your Dutch oven on the middle rack of your oven and turn the temperature to 450º.  Set a timer for 30 minutes.  Scrape your dough onto a generously floured work surface or bread board and, with floured hands, coax it into a round shape.  Rinse out your bowl, line it with a large sheet of parchment, and gently move your dough into the bowl.  Cover it loosely with plastic.

When your 30-minute timer goes off, sprinkle a bit of flour across the top of your dough, cut three vertical slashes across the top, take your screaming hot Dutch oven out with your best oven mitts, move it to a heat-proof surface, and lower your dough into it in its parchment sling.  Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.  This is where more magic happens, as the dough releases steam inside the pot, and rises again to become bread.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking uncovered for another 12 minutes.

That’s it.  All you need now is the patience to let it cool on a rack for at least an hour before slicing.  I really want to hear from you after you’ve tried this for the first time.

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Big Banana Nut Muffins

Today’s the day I finally decided to use that Ziploc baggy of three mashed ripe bananas that have been waiting patiently in the freezer next to my growing bag of Bell & Evans chicken livers.  A short tangent that has nothing to do with this recipe, if you’ll indulge me…

The livers I save until there’s enough – at least 10 ounces – to make a chopped liver paté.  Sadly, today’s whole chicken did not have the usual bag of gizzards which I fully expected to add to my collection.  There was a time when I’d be upset that they were there, since I had no need for them and resented paying for chicken parts that just went down the disposal.  But now that I’ve wised up about saving the livers, I called B&E to inquire.  Had a lovely chat with a woman in customer service who explained that at this time of year, with so many people needing chicken livers for something or other, they don’t always stuff them back into the birds, but package them for sale in tubs.  We shared a chuckle about this, and now I feel a bit better about getting my whole chicken’s worth of dinner for tonight.

Back to the bananas.  Several years ago I posted my banana bread recipe on the Epicurious website – Roni’s Banana Bread – and decided to modify that for some mega muffins.  The banana bread itself is huge, so I cut back volume by about 1/2 to satisfy the needs of 6 giant muffin tins.  High hopes here for…

 BIG BANANA NUT MUFFINS

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INGREDIENTS (what I used plus suggestions for substitutions):

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (or regular whole wheat flour)

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats, processed in blender to a flour texture (or any rolled oats, but not quick-cooking)

1-1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Shredded Unsweetened Coconut (optional)

3 large ripe bananas mashed

2 large eggs lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp sour cream (or plain yogurt)

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted briefly in microwave just to a liquid state (or use vegetable oil, walnut oil, or melted butter)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

(or use 3/4 cup light brown sugar in lieu of two different sugars – I would have, but I was out of stock)

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º and line muffin tins with parchment paper cups, or grease them.

In a medium bowl combine ingredients 1 though 8.  In another bowl whisk together remaining ingredients.  Combine wet and dry ingredients and fill muffin cups  – they’ll take about 2/3 cup of batter each.

Bake about 30 minutes, until toothpick or bamboo skewer comes out clean.  Cool on rack until your able to handle them and ease them out of the muffin tin to cool completely on the rack.  (If using paper liners, this can be done immediately).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revised! Caraway Rye the Way I Remember It

11/4/17 – After baking this bread a couple of times, I altered the ratio of rye/bread flour and am happier with the results – lighter texture, even more like the deli rye I remember:

When I grew up in Boston’s Jewish enclaves of Dorchester and Mattapan, there was a bakery thriving about every 1/4 mile down the stretch of Blue Hill Avenue, the main thoroughfare that was also populated with dress shops, candy stores, delicatessens, butcher shops, and corner drug stores.

Although my mother was an accomplished baker, she restricted her repertoire to pastries – often made with raised dough – and so our semiweekly purchases at the bakery were entirely breads, bagels and rolls.  Her personal favorite and mine was the caraway rye, heavily seeded, and sometimes baked in a loaf pan which afforded us uniform slices for our corned beef or salami sandwiches, sometimes boule-shaped (a shape we simply called ’round’)  for slices we’d slather with sweet butter and sprinkle with kosher salt.

I’d often eat a slice of the hearty, chewy bread just by itself, going first for all the middle parts, leaving that crisp, crusty framework for the end.  And if the slice I got had that little paper sticker on it from the Bakers’ Union, all the better to have one last little thing to chew on.  I was a kid, that’s what we did.

Those bakeries, like most of the little shops of my youth, live only in memory now.    “When Pigs Fly” Bakery makes a toothsome rye in their extensive array of breads, sold at local supemarkets and in their few retail shops, but I find theirs a bit on the dry side, and shaped with slices too long and narrow to fashion a good sandwich.

After combing the internet for months and practicing the technique of no-knead Dutch oven bread, I think I’ve discovered a bread that unlocks the past for me.  This is a very slow-rising bread that should be started the day before you want to bake it – a full 18 hours to allow the flavor and texture to develop.  I started this dough at 1:30 yesterday afternoon and was ready to bake by 8am this morning, after preheating the oven for 30 minutes:

CARAWAY RYE THE WAY I REMEMBER IT

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makes 1 2-lb loaf

INGREDIENTS:

1-1/4 cups Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Rye Flour or Bob’s Red Mill Rye Flour

2-3/4  cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour

1/4 cup plain yogurt (not Greek) or kefir, OR 1/4 cup buttermilk (can mix 1/2 tbsp buttermilk powder with enough water to measure 1/4 cup)

2 tbsp + 2 tsp caraway seeds

2 tbsp vital wheat gluten

2 tsp lightly crushed kosher salt

1-3/4 cups lukewarm water

2 tsp sugar

3/8 tsp SAF instant yeast, or other similar instant yeast

1 egg white mixed with 1 tsp water

PREPARATION:

Combine the flours, buttermilk, 2 tbsp of caraway seeds, the vital wheat gluten and salt in a 5-quart mixing bowl.  Combine lukewarm water sugar and yeast in small bowl and let sit about 5 minutes until foam begins to form.

Stir yeast mixture into flour mixture until well combined, and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap.  Leave it alone for the next 18 hours.

When ready to bake, place your Dutch oven on center rack of oven and preheat to 450º.  Meanwhile, transfer dough to a floured work surface and shape into a boule by turning and tucking ends under.  Place that on a large sheet of parchment, wash out your large mixing bowl, and move the shaped dough in its parchment sling into the the bowl.  Brush lightly all over with your egg wash, make three shallow slashes across the top, and sprinkle with remaining 2 tsp caraway seeds.  Cover with plastic and let rest 15 minutes while oven heats up.

Remove hot Dutch oven to a heat-safe surface, carefully place the dough in its sling inside, cover and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove lid and bake another 16 minutes or so, until crust is deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer registers 200-205º in the center.  Remove to a rack to cool at least an hour before slicing.

Enjoying the first slice now, and exactly as I remembered!  Chewy, crusty, moist.  Now all I need is some brisket corned beef.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemony Yogurt Pound Cake with Pistachios

Flour.  Yogurt.  Lemon zest.  Sugar. Eggs. Vegetable oil.  Unsalted pistachios.  Put them all together in the right combination with a bit of salt, some baking powder, a smidgen of increasingly costly vanilla extract, and a 1/4 cup of your favorite marmalade and you’ll have one of the most delightful cakes to ever come out of your oven.  No mixer, blender, or food processor involved.  Just two bowls – one for the dry ingredients, one for the wet, and an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2″ loaf pan.

Most pound cakes are heavily laden with butter.  Not this one.  The only butter involved is the small pat you use to generously butter your loaf pan. Instead, it derives its moist and distinctive texture from a cup of full-fat yogurt and 1/2 cup of vegetable oil.

I use a Williams-Sonoma “gold” loaf pan for this – the perfect size and weight for this cake, but any good metal loaf pan will suffice.  This fits nicely into my Breville countertop convection oven, so if you have one or a similar oversized toaster-oven, by all means use it instead of your full-sized oven.

The pistachios are optional.  I sometimes make this with almonds, but you can leave out the nuts and still have a lovely accompaniment to your afternoon tea.

LEMONY YOGURT POUND CAKE WITH PISTACHIOS

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(photo taken after enjoying two slices from the middle for our dessert last night)

INGREDIENTS:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted pistachio nut meats or blanched slivered almonds (optional if you dislike nuts, but really a nice addition)

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup whole milk yogurt, preferably goat milk yogurt which is naturally lighter in fat

grated zest of one lemon

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup lemon, orange, grapefruit marmalade heated with 1 tsp water until it melts

(I used a lovely lemon-pear marmalade from Stonewall Kitchen this time, thus the little chunks shown in the photo)

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º and generously butter your loaf pan.  Combine flour, baking powder, salt and nuts in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar, yogurt, lemon zest and vanilla.  Gradually whisk in the flour mixture, and then fold in the vegetable oil with a spatula until completely incorporated into the batter.  Pour into prepared pan, place pan on a baking sheet (like the one that comes with your countertop oven) and bake about 50 minutes until that proverbial tester comes out clean.  Cake will have risen nicely and be a deep golden brown.

Cool in pan on a rack about 5 minutes, then turn it out onto the rack to cool until just warm.  Brush the hot marmalade over the cake and let it set and cool before slicing.

 

Low-Fat Jumbo Maple-Walnut Muffins

Combing through my 4″ thick loose-leaf  binder of recipe favorites, I happened on these muffins I last made before the new millenium.  But even so, their chewy texture and rich maple flavor still resonated, and they became the perfect excuse to whip out my oversized muffin tin and the oversized parchment liners I found on sale last week.

I do have normal-sized muffin tins, but have used them recently simply for the individual portions of newish Jewish gefilte fish for Passover.  (Don’t cringe.  Those little babies are made with a combination of fresh salmon and cod and smoked trout, and they deserve a better name, like quenelles.)  When I bake muffins, I prefer to make them bodaciously big, and split one with my husband, as we do with the cobblestone cakes from Panera, or my knock-offs thereof.

These muffins are low fat, with only 1/4 cup vegetable oil… the rest of the moistness coming from unsweetened applesauce and chopped prunes (ok, dried plums if you must).

Of course they can be made to normal scale with adjusted baking temp and time – probably 25º cooler and 5 minutes shorter.  But go big if you can and share one with your sweetie.  As I write this I just realized I left out the ground cinnamon – not as disastrous as leaving out either of the leavening agents or the salt, but damn…I wonder how much I’ll miss that flavor note.

Jumbo Low-Fat Maple Walnut Muffins with Prunes

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup pitted prunes coarsely chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup buttermilk (Bob’s Red Milk buttermilk powder – use 2 tbsp and then add water to make 1 cup

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B, now known as Dark Robust)

1/2 cup light brown sugar (or 1/4 cup each dark brown and white sugar)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 tsp each vanilla and maple extract

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 375º.  Line 6 oversized muffin tins with parchment paper liners.  In large bowl combine first 8 ingredients.  Whisk remaining ingredients together in 4-cup Pyrex cup or medium mixing bowl.  Stir wet ingredients into dry until just combined.  Divide batter equally among muffin cups, all the way to the top.  I use a 1.3 cup measuring cup filled to overflowing and fill each muffin cup twice…keeps spills to a minimum.

Bake until tops are golden brown and tester comes out clean, about 33 minutes.  Ease the muffins out of their tins with a table knife – just enough to nudge them, as nothing is going to stick to the pan.  Let cool on a rack.

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Foolproof Sausage & Cheese-Stuffed Canneloni

Several years ago an episode of America’s Test Kitchen gave me another of their superb cooking hacks – a way to make manicotti or canneloni without struggling to fill pasta shells that often cracked, sometimes just in the box from shipping, but more often from the pressure exerted in stuffing them.  The trick is to use no-cook lasagna noodles in lieu of manicotti shells, softening them in very hot water until pliable, and then doing rolls-ups with your stuffing of choice – in this case, a combination of fully-cooked Italian chicken sausages, a mix of shredded Italian cheeses, and ricotta.

This dish has much of the character of lasagna, but is far easier to serve in specific portions.   I have an obvious preference for ingredients from Trader Joe’s for this, but wherever I specifiy that, feel free to substitute your favorite brand.  But I do believe the TJ’s products used in this are superior in flavor and value to other supermarket brands.  The no-bake noodles from Italy develop a tender texture as they bake in the sauce.  the sauce is the best store-bought marinara I’ve ever cooked with, and the Quattro Formaggio obsoletes the task of purchasing and shredding multiple Italian cheeses.

 

Sausage & Cheese-Stuffed Canneloni

(serves 6-8)

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INGREDIENTS:

16 sheets of Trader Joe’s No-Cook Lasagna noodles

2 28-ounce cans Trader Joe’s Low-Fat Tuscano Marinara

12-ounce package Trader Joe’s fully cooked Italian Chicken Sausages (either mild or spicy, as you prefer)

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion

1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth

2 tsp EVOO

15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta

1 cup Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio shredded cheese blend

2 tbsp + 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

PREPARATION:

Sauté the whole sausages and chopped onion in the olive oil over medium heat until onions begin to turn color. Turn sausages over, continue to cook another 3 minutes. Add the wine or vermouth and turn up the heat, stirring often until all the wine is absorbed and onions are golden. Remove to a plate to cool.

Combine the ricotta, shredded cheese mix, 2 tbsp romano, parsley and pepper in a medium bowl. Cut the cooled cooked sausages into 1/4″ dice and add, with the onions, to cheese mixture. Filling should weigh about 2 lbs. on a kitchen scale.

Fill a 13 x 9 x 2″ baking dish with 1″ very hot water, and immerse the uncooked noodles in the water, making sure to keep them separate. Allow to soak at least 10 minutes, until pliable enough to be rolled. Lay them out flat on a tea towel.

Lightly brush bottom of that baking dish with olive oil and spread about 1 cup of the sauce in it. Spread about 2 ounces (scant 1/3 cup) of the filling on lower two-thirds of each noodle, and roll up from the short side. Lay them in the baking dish seam side down. All 16 should fit perfectly in 2 rows of 8. Cover completely with most or all of the remaining sauce and sprinkle top with remaining 3/4 cup grated cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Uncover, raise oven temperature to 425, and bake just a few minutes longer until cheese on top is just golden. Let rest about 5 minutes and serve.

Note: The filling can be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated.

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Served with lightly dressed green salad and Dutch-oven-baked Artisan rosemary bread.

 

 

 

In Praise of Parsley

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“Sprig of parsley on my plate, are you there to decorate?  Or is your meaning something more?  Is your purpose to be ate?”

This is a silly thing that went through my head decades ago as I stared at the pathetic little sprig of curly parsley adorning an otherwise colorless meal in an unremarkable setting.  Since then, my appreciation for and use of this oft-overlooked herb has grown exponentially and taken part, sometimes in center stage, in virtually ever meal I’ve prepared.

Not to be confused with that ridiculous curly impostor, my love affair with parsley is reserved only for the gorgeously verdant Italian variety shown above, whose leaves can be as tiny as a pinky fingernail or as large as the foliage of a weeping fig tree.

It seems to me now unfathomable that I didn’t buy my first bunch of fresh parsley probably until the age of 26 or 27 when, after 4 or 5 years as a married woman responsible for home-cooked meals, I relied heavily on dried parsley flakes and – for that matter – many other herbs in dried form that I couldn’t dream of using that way ever again.  Rosemary, cilantro, basil, to name a few.  but I digress.

Parsley not only elevates the taste and color spectrum of every dish where it remains in its bright, uncooked state, but is also the star of much ethnic cuisine – most notably tabbouleh.  Chop it and add it to your tuna salad, your potato salad, your pasta salad, or leave the leaves intact and add them to your mixed green salad.  You’ll surprise yourself how much of a flavor booster you have at your disposal, provided you treat your parsley with respect.

And by respect, I mean keep it cold and dry.  If your only option is to buy a bunch that’s been mercilessly sprayed by those relentless shower nozzles in the produce department, shake off the excess, bag it without a twist tie, and then blot it as soon as you get home in a cocoon of paper towels.  If you don’t, your beautiful bouquet of greenery will turn to a mushy mess before you’ve had a chance to use most of it.  Keep it in a ziploc bag, and place a paper towel blotter inside if there’s any moisture left.

Same goes for parsley’s cousin, cilantro, which I often use together in a chimmichurri or charmoula marinade.  But unlike cilantro, whose stems are tender and edible, parsley stems can be tough,  Save them to use with other aromatics when you’re making chicken soup, but not too much or your broth will take on a greenish hue.

If you find when you’re shopping that the only parsley remaining is wilted or puny, ask them to bring out more, or pass on it.  You’d never buy a bouquet of flowers that’s gone by, so even if it’s only $1.29 per bunch, make sure your parsley purchase is as deeply green and filled with promise as the one in the photo.