Sunday, January 5, 2014

18-Hour Rise Artisan Bread

Last month my counterpart started baking bread again with the intention of crafting a variety of basic bread recipes that we could share. This is the first in what will hopefully become a series on different types of breads you can make at home.

This is a variation of the Sullivan Street Bakery's No-Knead Bread. This bread has a long, slow rise and is steamed while it is baked in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven, creating a loaf with a thick, chewy crust and a dense, slightly doughy flesh. It has a nice wheat flavor and keeps well when wrapped in freezer paper and left on the counter.

You will need:

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
3 cups water
olive oil (for coating)

Combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and water, working the dough with your hands. We use a very large ceramic bowl for this until the dough is fairly well-formed. Turn it out onto a wooden board to kneed it together. We use a pizza paddle which is ideal for this recipe.

Unsifted all-purpose flour

Active yeast, unproofed

Kosher salt

White sugar

Work it by hand

Work the dough on your board, adding just a little more flour or water as needed until you have a fairly homogeneous mass. Now it is ready for the first 18-hour rise.

Work it on the board

Work it all together

Ready for the first rise

Place your dough back in the bowl and coat it with olive oil. Cover it and place it in a warm spot in the kitchen and come back tomorrow.

Coat it with oil

Cover it up and leave it alone

After 18 hours, work the dough to prepare it for the second, mush shorter rise. Work the dough with your hands on your board to work out any air bubbles from the yeast,but also to build structure. Kneading the dough helps the proteins in the flour bind together to create a nice, dense loaf.

Knead it and shape it

Shape the dough into two round loaves. Dust them with flour and wrap each of them loosely in cotton cloth. Let them rise for about four hours.

Ready for the second rise

Four hours later - ready for the oven

About 30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 500 with your cast iron skillets inside. Carefully place your loaves inside your skillets, one at a time. The pizza paddle is very good here also.

Baking in hot cast iron skillets

Cover your loaves and let them bake for a couple of minutes. Then, add a bit of water to create steam. Do this again after about five minutes, and again at about ten minutes. After about 20 minutes of total baking time, remove lids and turn down the heat to 450. Back for another 10-15 minutes.

First steam - a little water down the spout

Remove the lid for the second and third steaming

Use a clean towel to remove your bread from the cast iron, placing the loaves on a rack and leaving the cast iron where it is until things have cooled down a bit.

This bread is delicious and is especially good with butter and honey. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013: The Year in Review

2013 was another exciting year for us in the kitchen. We continued our exploration of cooking techniques, new and old, with delicious results. Here are our ten favorite posts from the last year:

Ballotine of Pheasant
This was the first of many pheasant cooking techniques and our first (and so far only) foray into modernist cooking. We introduced meat glue into the classic ballotine meat binding process with passable results.

How to Debone a Whole Chicken
We demonstrate the deboning technique depicted in Larousse Gastronomique using the tools from our home kitchen, proving that with a little practice the hobbyist cook can master Olde World cooking skills.

Traditional Bouillabaisse
Every year we post a variation on my favorite seafood dish. In 2013, we went old school and replicated the process advocated by Larousse Gastronomique.

Limas and Ham
We delved more deeply into traditional Americana cooking last year, including this superior take on good old pork and beans.

A Primer on Fiddlehead Ferns
After seeing these tender little shoots appear at our local Wegmans for several springs, 2013 was the year we took the plunge. The result was one of my favorite meals of the year.

Filleting Fish and Prepping Fava Beans
This two-for-one post shows how to fillet a fish in your own kitchen, as well as how simple it is to prepare the tender, buttery fava beans.

Ultimate Pancakes
2013 was the year we perfected pancakes. The secret - cultured dairy. While buttermilk is a favorite, we used labne for a more delicate flavor.

All About the Gravy
Just in time for Thanksgiving, my counterpart shares his best gravy secrets.

Weekday Coq au Vin
We employed the slow cooker to achieve this classic French dish on a Thursday night, made entirely from ingredients found in most home kitchens.

Boeuf Bourguignon
We wrapped up the year with another French classic that was a big hit at the holiday potluck.

And, our year in review wouldn't be complete without a shout out to last year's  birthday gift to ourselves - the VacMaster VP112 chamber vacuum sealer for the home. This one tool has reduced food spoilage and waste in our kitchen, allowing us to preserve cheeses, sauces, and leftovers for future use.