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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bread Making 101

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread
Adapted from The New York Times
3 Cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 TSP instant yeast
1 1/4 TSP kosher salt
1 5/8 Cups water

I always like to challenge myself in the kitchen, but I feel like I've been slacking lately.  To keep my cooking skills sharp, I started a short list of all the food projects to tackle this fall and winter.  One of those projects is mastering the art of baking bread.  I've always wanted try this recipe from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery (published in the NY Times in 2006), and it seemed like an excellent starting point to test my bread making abilities.      

If making your own bread seems intimidating, then this is the recipe for you.  I was worried that I would somehow screw this up, but Mr. Lahey's method is practically fool-proof.  There are several steps and the whole process takes almost 24 hours (mostly unattended), but the results are nothing short of amazing.  The secret is baking in a covered pot to create a nice steamy environment.  You get a crispy crust with a soft, chewy center - everything you want in a perfect loaf!   

In a large bowl mix the flour, yeast, and salt.  Stir in the water until a shaggy dough forms.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 14-18 hours.  The dough is ready when the surface is covered with little air bubbles.

Turn out onto a well-floured surface and fold onto itself once or twice.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

Using enough flour to keep dough from sticking, gently  shape into a ball and place on a floured cotton dish towel seam side down.  Cover with another dish towel and let rise for 2 hours, or when it's doubled in size.

At least a half and hour before you are ready to bake, preheat a heavy covered pot in a 450 degree oven.  Carefully remove the pot from the oven.  Using the towel, gently turn the dough over into the pot so the seam side is facing up.  Don't worry if it doesn't look pretty.  Cover lid and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove lid and bake for 15-30 minutes more, or until crust is nice and browned.  Cool on a rack and enjoy.

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The Hungry Yuppies, Annie and Rich, are a young couple from CT who are self-proclaimed foodies. Annie is the chef, and Rich is her willing taste tester. Juggling a full time job in the city wasn't going to get in the way of Annie's love for cooking. It's about eating well whether you have just 30 minutes on a Monday night, or all day on a rainy Sunday.