No-Knead Rosemary Olive Bread
I've been reading my blogger friend Cathy Erway's new book, The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove. She and I first met at a supper club in Brooklyn a few years ago. As I read, I wasn't surprised to learn how much we have in common food-wise. In her book, she mentions this revolutionary technique for home bread baking first published in a New York Times article in 2006. The concept came from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery and swept like wildfire throughout the blogging and baking worlds.
A home bread-baking uprising (pun intended) was taking place and where was I? Years ago, I had tried to make rustic loaves and French baguettes with disappointing results. It was bread, but it wasn't light and airy with that perfect crusty crust and chewy interior. I did a little research, and tried some of the tricks - like putting a baking pan at the bottom of the oven and pouring in a cup of water right when you put in the bread to simulate the steam-injected ovens used in professional bakeries. Still, not the results I wanted.
I'd heard about this new technique, but never got around to checking it out. Reading about it in Cathy's book got me excited again - why not give it a try? In fact, why not make my favorite: Rosemary Olive Bread? After a quick look around the web, I settled on the America's Test Kitchen version. Their recipe called for a slightly different ratio of ingredients but the basic principles were the same. The genius of the no-knead technique is two-fold:
1.) Let it sit for a long time instead of kneading it - a minimum of 12 hours, best at 18 or more.
2.) Bake it in a hot, covered pot in the oven to simulate a professional oven.
Check out this video from the NYT to get the inside scoop from Mark Bittman and Jim Lahey. My favorite part is at the very end when Lahey says of the no-knead recipe: "Let's make sure that everyone has access to it." I love that he wants to spread the bread-baking gospel throughout the land! This is what gets me excited about food and blogging! Learning new things and sharing them and hopefully inspiring others to get into their kitchens and make their own creations.
Here's my dough from the Almost No-Knead America's Test Kitchen recipe after sitting for 17 hours:
And here it is after a very brief knead (about 15 times, which is fun):
A week after I made this, I also tried the basic Lahey recipe. Both times I found that the bottom of my loaf came out too dark. I'm not sure exactly why that is since my oven runs pretty close to accurate temperature. Twice bitten, thrice shy, though. Next time I'll set the oven 25 degrees lower and see how it fares. If I lose crumb structure or crustiness, I'll try some other options.
Otherwise, the loaf was amazing. The crust was crisp, the interior was chewy and stretchy and had a great flavor. I might skip the Parmesan cheese from this recipe, since I don't think it's really essential. I just love getting a nice salty olive in a good bite, and the rosemary flavor is great. I intend to try new flavors and different types of flours, like whole wheat or rye. There are a ton of recipes on-line and the technique delivers a really incredible result. Even if you've never baked before, I encourage you to give this a try.
P.S. I also made my own butter for my first loaf! Shake up some heavy cream in a large, chilled glass jar for about 20-25 minutes. You might want to trade off shaking duties with a friend. The liquid in the jar will appear to solidify into a giant block of whipped cream and won't seem to be shakeable, but keep shaking! Eventually you will shake the buttermilk right out and chunks of yellow butter will clump up in there. Shake until you have lots of chunks and a thin liquid. Drain that off (into a clean container) and then put the solids in a bowl. Smash the butter against the side of the bowl with a spatula to squeeze out the rest of the buttermilk. Get it all out, because otherwise the butter will taste sour. You can save the buttermilk for pancakes or biscuits if you like. Add some kosher or sea salt and get ready for a damn fine serving of bread and butter.