Friday, December 7, 2007

Almost No Knead Bread

These pictures are of the first try of the Almost No Knead Bread recipe as found in the January-February 2008 issue of Cooks Illustrated. Kenje Alte was not impressed by the No Knead Bread recipe given in the November 2006 New York Times by Mark Bittman based on a recipe by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan. We have all seen this recipe and I tried it with distinct failing results. My endeavour had huge holes, didn't rise and didn't taste all that good. When I got the Cooks Illustrated magazine (I subscribe) it was the first one to try.

The Almost No Knead Bread recipe uses beer and white vinegar to make the bread taste better with somewhat of a sourdough flavor. The recipe was made using Gold Medal Harvest King flour which I like for the artisan breads. I used part of a bottle of Tyskie beer, a lager much like Budweiser, but with a slightly fuller flavor. The beer was part of a package of European beers I got for the Thanksgiving holidays. I don't normally drink anything this good. The remainder of the bottle did not go to waste! For the vinegar, I used plain white distilled vinegar.

The recipe produces a dough with a lower hydration than the original. For the 15 ounces of flour, I used 197 grams of water and 93 grams of beer. I kneaded the bread for about 3 minutes after the first rise. The dough felt right. Then I dropped it into a pan lined with a large sheet of parchment and let it rise for another 2 hours.

I heated my new dutch oven (without legs that get in the way) to 500 oF, and then slashed and transfered the loaf into the hot kettle, covered it and put it back into the oven, and reset the temp to 425 oF for 30 minutes. When that time was up, I followed the instructions to remove the lid and continue to bake the loaf uncovered until it is deep brown and the instant read thermometer reads 210. I used a remote thermometer and it did not reach 210 oF before the loaf got too brown. The second picture shows the bottom of the loaf. My thermometer read 205 oF.

When I removed the lid and inserted the thermometer, it read 203 and the loaf was nicely browned, but not dark brown. I should have removed it from the oven at that time.

The crumb is what I expected, nicely formed with relatively large holes. It has a chewy texture and a good flavor. The dark brown crust was too hard. (It knocked off a couple of small pieces of a tooth that broke three days ago and now has a temp filling waiting for a new crown. My teeth are getting older than I am.)

This bread is good. I will make it again.

I would give you the recipe, but you should buy the magazine for it. Cooks Illustrated, No. Ninety, Jan-Feb 2008. There are oranges on the cover.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

English Muffins with Sourdough

Since we will have a bunch of people for breakfast on Thanksgiving (2007) I decided to make some English muffins. I followed the recipe on the box for the rings with enough to make 8 muffins. I added 200 grams of my starter which is equivalent to 100 grams of water and 100 grams of flour. The resulting dough was smooth and easy to handle. I allow them to rise in the rings in a floured baking sheet with a greased plastic sheet over them and another baking sheet on top. This forces the dough to rise sideways in the ring to fill the ring. These were baked for about 15 minutes without the top sheet in place.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sourdough Potato Bread

Recently my wife and I and my sister ate dinner at a nice restaurant in Chattanooga, St. Johns, I think. They served a very nice sourdough potato bread. I decided to try to make some. My sourdough starter is sitting on the counter ready to use.

I used Google to find recipes on the internet and found several that were all the same. The one I choose was It calls for instant mashed potato, so I used my favorite instant potato, Hungry Jack. These are flakes of russet potato. I followed the recipe and at the end, no bake temperature or time was given. So...I turned on the convection oven to 450, put a cup of water into the cast iron frying pan on the bottom, and put the bread in to bake, essentially a cold oven start. I set the timer for 30 minutes. Then turned on the oven light. The bulb was burned out! I used a flashlight to monitor the bake process. After 15 minutes, the bread was browning a little quickly, so I turned the oven down to 350 and continued. At the end of the 30 minutes this is what we got. The bread internal temp was 200 degrees F.

Here is the crumb. The bread has a barely sweet flavor and a soft crumb but still sturdy enough to not break when spreading the butter. I served it warm. We will have more tomorrow on Thanksgiving when everybody is here.