Monday, November 21, 2011
Knead Not Sourdough Bread (originally from Alton Brown)
I’ve attempted bread making a few times in the last year. None of those efforts have been all that successful. I tend to put the blame on high altitude baking, although I am sure plenty of other people have figured out how to bake here and at much higher altitudes. I used to enjoy bread from our bread machine when we lived in Bermuda. Here in Denver I tried it and it was yet another kitchen failure for me.
I don’t like to give up easily so I tried to find another recipe. I found this recipe from Alton Brown of Food Network. His ideas nearly always jump out at me because I like his scientific method of cooking. There is a method to his madness and he explains things clearly and logically. I like that approach. Another strong point of this recipe is that he cooks the bread in his Dutch oven. I want to give my mom some more recipes to try in her Dutch oven, so this was worth a go.
Here is the link to his recipe:http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/knead-not-sourdough-recipe/index.html
17 ½ ounces bread flour
¼ tsp dry active yeast
2 ½ tsp kosher salt
12 ounces filtered water
2 TB cornmeal
I’ll describe how I followed his instructions. Heads up: this is a long process. Don’t plan on taking the ingredients out of the pantry in the morning and having freshly baked bread that same night for dinner. Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Add the water and stir. The dough came together fairly easily. I would guess you don’t want to over mix it at this stage. Let it all sit in the bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap for 19 hours. Yes-- 19!!! As it turned out, mine sat for nearly 25 hours. I didn’t have enough time first thing in the morning for the next step so I put it off a bit longer.
After this long wait, the next step is simple but then you wait some more. Put the dough on a floured surface. The directions say to punch down the dough. I am not an experienced bread-maker but hope I did this correctly. I think I’ve heard this called “knocking down the dough” as well. I gave it a solid punch in the middle, folded it over itself, and repeated this process a few more times. Straightforward and not difficult as long as I kept my hands floured. The dough rests another 15 minutes then is shaped into a ball and covered with a small bit of cornmeal. Time for this dough to rest again for another 2-3 hours.
When you are ready for the next phase, put your Dutch oven in the oven for a while to let it preheat. I set the delay function on my oven to turn on about 30 minutes before I expected to return home. This worked really well. I walked in the door, had a hot oven and pan, baked the bread and enjoyed it for dinner less than an hour later. The dough bakes for 30 minutes at 450 F degrees with the lid on, then another 15 minutes with the lid off.
The results were better than I had expected. The crust of the bread was crunchy and golden. The inside could have been cooked just slightly longer but was still soft and springy. (Alton Brown provides the internal temperature but I didn’t have the right tool to check this, I think I’ll get one for next time around.) Other than the long waiting periods, this recipe doesn’t call for any time-consuming effort. I will plan ahead better on my next go-round so that the initial rising period is overnight, the next is in the morning, then the bread will cook just before dinner. I would like to see if I could make this bread in smaller quantities; it seems a perfect bread for a soup in a bread-bowl.
On a funny note, I started this bread on November 17th and let it rise overnight, baking it the following day. I happened to come upon a very similar recipe late in the evening on the 17th on another blog I enjoy, Skip to my Lou (http://www.skiptomylou.org/2011/11/17/no-knead-bread/). It turns out that November 17th is National Homemade Bread Day. Who knew there was such a thing? This bread is worth celebrating!