Monday, January 7, 2008

Bread, beautiful bread

First of all, Happy New Year to all!

New year, new beginnings, they say. And while I didn't make any New Year's resolutions, which I would inevitably fail anyway, I just decided to change a thing or two in my eating habits. Nothing drastical, nothing unmanagable, just things like taking up bread baking again. On a regular basis, because I love baking bread but I have neglected it for a long time. But the appalling state of affairs at the bread front in this country has simply made it inevitable to look for ways which produce bread. BREAD, with capital letters, as the "things" they sell at supermarket cannot be called so with the greatest good intention. And my town is too little to have a quality bakery, I'm afraid.

I tried tons of recipes for bread in the last few years. Recipes for bread machine, recipes for bread baked in the oven, several of which turned out fine. Fine, but not perfect. And ever since I tasted a gorgeous sour dough baguette on Portobello Road, I've been craving that taste.

So a few weeks ago I decided to give another go to the oh-so-famous no-knead bread. I must admit, I did try this recipe when it hit foodie internet circles but it didn't convince me, it turned out too chewy and wet for my taste. It was so long ago that I don't even remember what could have gone wrong there but I was hoping for a better result this time. And that I got. Perfect loaf of bread, nice crust and all those lovely holes inside, mmmmm! I could eat a whole loaf at a sitting, with only butter.

So here's my adapted recipe:

No-knead bread

450g bread flour

about 350ml water

a pinch of fresh yeast

1 tsp salt

Mix everything with a wooden spoon so that you get a sticky dough. You might need less or more water so go carefully. Cover with foil and let it rest for at least 12 hours. I usually rest it for 14-15 hours.

Fold the half of the dough over the other half and transfer to a heavily floured workspace. Let it rest for half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 240C (or 220C fan) and put in a round or oval Pyrex dish with lid to preheat.

Carefully transfer the dough in the dish, sprinkle with some flour, cover, and bake in the lowest position in your oven for about 35 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 25-30 minutes.

I have also tried replacing 100g bread flour with Graham flour and the loaf turned out just as beautiful, in fact higher than the previous one. No pic though, sorry.
For a change, I also made some health rolls this week, which have a different texture but are altogether very good.

Health rolls

200g bread flour
100g pastry flour
200g whole wheat, Graham or rye flour
4 tbsp rolled oats
125g yoghurt
about 300ml water
2 tsp butter
2 tsps of each: cumin seeds, sesam seeds, flax seeds and sunflower seeds
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar or honey
16g fresh yeast

Put everything in a bowl and knead by hand or KA. You need to get a soft, but not sticky dough.

Let the dough rest for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Knead again quickly and divide into 10 portions and shape rolls, putting them on a big baking tray. You can cut an x with a knife on top. Brush the rolls with water and sprinkle over some seeds or rolled oats if you want.

Let the rolls rest for about 20-30 minutes, and in the meantime preheat the oven and put a small bowl of water on the bottom. Then put the tray in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the rolls are nice golden. You can brush them with water again at half-time.


culinarytravelsofakitchengoddess said...

Happy New Year to you too Mara!!

That bread looks gorgeous.

Sandy said...

A slice of bread with butter is hard to beat. I love home baked bread so much and wish I could do it more often.

Paola said...

what a fantastic looking bread, mara! i must be the last person on earth to try nkb!


Sarah said...

Hi Mara,

That bread looks amazing!! I'm still not that confident with yeast - sometimes what I make turns out ok, sometimes it's as hard as a rock, hehe.

But the other day I made Nigella's blackberry and apple kuchen, which turned out really well! Now I'm inspired to bake more bread! I'd love to try this NKB, but probably after I get home and I start missing good bread.

I'm in Germany at the moment, and we're really lucky that there are fantastic bakeries EVERYWHERE. And I do mean everywhere!!

xox Sarah

annauk said...

Mara, your health bread looks especially good.
Maybe I'll give it a go, thanks for typing up the recipe!