Monday, April 21, 2008

No-Knead Bread: Variations And Improvements

From a comment in my previous post:
Unfortunately, Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe is pretty flawed; it works for some, but a lot of us followed it to the letter and produced flat, gummy discs. Cook's Illustrated recently published a corrected version that is total perfection--*that's* the one you should use.
I found the following comments re: the Cook's Illustrated variations/fixes for Lahey's No-Knead Bread recipe (The CI site requires a subscription):

Cook's Illustrated does their thing with No Knead Bread

Looks like they made some minor changes that resulted in a better-tasting loaf. A little vinegar, a little beer, and a quick knead (which also reduced the rise time from 12 to 8 hours).

Cook's Illustrated this month has an article on No-Knead Bread. Instead of 1-1/2 c. water, they used 3/4 c. plus 2 T. water. Then they added white vinegar (1 T.) and a little beer (1/4 c. plus 2 T.) to add a little more taste.

It was great, probably the best I've made. I used Bud Light, since that was the only mild-flavored lager I had. CI suggested mild lager and we usually have ales or porters on hand.

A great suggestion from Cook's Illustrated is to let the dough do its second rising after shaping on a 12 x 18 piece of parchment paper sprayed with Pam and placed inside a 10" skillet. Let it rise there for 2 hours lightly covered with plastic wrap. The skillet keeps it from spreading out too much. Then when your cooking pot is hot (this time I used a 5qt. Mario Batali Dutch Oven) lift up the parchment paper and set the whole thing, dough and parchment, in the pot. Cover and bake, 30 minutes covered, and 20-30 uncovered. When the loaf is done, just lift out the parchment and the bread comes out easily.

I tried the basic "New" recipe from CI about a week and a half ago and I did think the beer and vinegar added to the flavor. CI has you doing minimal kneading - I still did the one bowl, fold the dough in the bowl method with no kneading. I have plans to try their WW and rye variations, too. Here are variations that CI mentioned:

Olive, Rosemary and Parm
Add 4 ounces (about 2 cups) grated Parm and 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves to the flour mixture in step 1.
Add 1/2 c chopped green olives with the water.

Seeded Rye
Replace 1-3/8 cups (7 ounces) AP flour with rye flour and add 2 T caraway seeds in step 1.

WW Bread
Replace 1 cup (5 ounces) AP flour with WW flour. Stir 2T honey into the water in step 1.

Cranberry Pecan Bread
Add 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 c toasted pecan halves to the flour in step 1.

Because of my dry climate I used 4 ounces of beer (Samuel Adams Boston Lager here) and a little more water. My loaf got a quite dark crust (tasted great but not so photogenic) so I didn't take a photo, but it was good.

Just this past weekend I made a No Knead bread. I was in a time crunch, if I had waited the 12 hrs for the first rise, then allow 2 more hrs. for the 2nd rise, I would have had to bake it off @2am. I didn't schedule it correctly, for sure.

Here's what I did & it worked for me. In a 2 cup glass measuring cup with 1-1/4 cups of water & placed in the microwave to boil, then placed the hot cup in the corner of the microwave. The "NKD" was in a plastic bowl w/its cover, I then placed the bowl as far away to the opposite corner of the MW as possible, there was approx 6" between the two. I did not open the "MW" door until I saw that it had risen.

An additional factor was, the oven was on for a good part of the afternoon. With the "MW" sitting above the stove, it may have been getting radiant heat to some extent, as well. If the oven wasn't on, then I probably would have reheated the water after 1.5 hrs., of course removing the bowl of dough.

In approx. 3 hrs. it was doubled, then placed the dough in the pot for the second rise. It all worked just fine for me. Saving a lot of time that I didn't have that particular day.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The World's Two Easiest Breads

From The Week Magazine:

Recipe of the Week: The world's two easiest breads

There’s now no excuse not to bake your own bread, said Nick Fox in The New York Times. A year ago, a columnist for this newspaper, Mark Bittman, published what we called "the easiest bread recipe possible." The no-knead recipe was created by Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in SoHo. The response from readers "was so fervid you would have thought he'd revealed a foolproof way to pick winning lottery numbers." People desperately wanted to bake bread at home, and that recipe showed them how.

Recently Dr. Jeff Hertzberg, a physician from Minneapolis, developed an even easier bread-making technique. His recipe makes Lahey's method look "like molecular gastronomy." Both use 30 percent to 50 percent more liquid than most recipes that require kneading. Lahey's recipe, because it uses only a small amount of yeast, requires at least 18 hours of fermentation and often results in a very loose dough. Dr. Hertzberg's dough rises more quickly, and easily forms into a loaf that can be baked in a pan or on a hot stone.

Recipes of the week

No-Knead Bread (You can read more about this recipe in my previous post). Also see these Variations And Improvements.

Time: about 1-1/2 hours, plus 14 to 20 hours' rising time

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1-5/8 cups water
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1-1/4 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

In large bowl combine flour, yeast, salt. Add 1-5/8 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours (preferably about 18), at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour work surface; place dough on it. Sprinkle with a little more flour, and fold dough over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into ball. Generously coat cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; put dough on towel, seam-side down. Dust with more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel; let rise for about 2 hours. When ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up. (It may look like a mess, but that’s okay.) Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid, bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on rack.

Yield: One 1-1/2-pound loaf.

Simple Crusty Bread
Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)

Time: About 45 minutes, plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising

6-1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
4 cups water
1-1/2 tbsp yeast
1-1/2 tbsp kosher salt

In large bowl, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature at least 2 hours (and up to 5). Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks.

When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough. Cut off grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating rounded top and lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes. Dust dough with flour and slash top with serrated knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour 1 cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Yield: 4 loaves.

Coffee: Why You Should Use Paper Filters

As you can read from the links in this post, paper filters eliminate almost all of the LDL-raising diterpenes from coffee. The French Press method, considered to be the "ideal" way of making coffee, is thus not good as far as cholesterol is concerned, and metal (gold) filters also don't protect you from these diterpenes.

While you can rinse and reuse the AeroPress filters, the amount of diterpenes increases, per this post. (The test rinsed the filter after 10 uses, and it showed that a rinsed filter resulted in nearly double the diterpenes of a new filter; I don't know if rinsing after one pressing would show the same increase in the subsequent pressing.) Since the filters cost only 1 cent each, it probably makes sense to use a new filter each time, which is what I'll now do.

(This suggests to me that espresso, being unfiltered, is also not good for LDL levels.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

AeroPress: Less Coffee, More Taste

Alan Adler, Inventor of the Aerobie AeroPress

As many have commented, the AeroPress uses more coffee per serving than other methods (e.g., French Press). I earlier posted my coffee-stretching/saving solution.

Alan Adler, the inventor of the AeroPress (and the Aerobie Flying Ring - pictured behind him), has this to say about getting more from the AeroPress:
For those who want more extraction from the AeroPress, here are some ways to accomplish that:

Use finer grind, that requires a VERY GENTLE pressing. That in turn takes longer and you get more extraction from the fine grind AND from the longer wet time. My experience is that you can push extraction up to 25% this way with no increase in acidity or bitterness.

Press more water through the bed of coffee. That both extracts more and reduces the strength of brew trapped in the puck. My experience is that this noticeably increases bitterness. But rasqual [a CoffeeGeek Forum poster] likes this approach.

Use hotter water. This may be better anyway for light roasts -- even if you're not seeking to reduce coffee expense.

Have fun, do a lot of tasting comparisons. They needn't be blind, but side-by-side comparisons are recommended.

Best regards,

I thus may tinker further with my procedure. Since I already use my grinder's finest setting, I'll try a combination of longer extraction times and less water (I currently press all 10 oz or so through a 1-scoop serving; maybe I'll cut that in half to about 5 oz. of hot water).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Great Cup Of Coffee!

Thursday night (4/3/08) I stopped by Texas Roast (Highland Village) and picked up a pound of fresh coffee beans because some friends were coming over for dessert and coffee.

I was told the coffee had just been roasted that day or the night before, and it must have been true, because it was still degassing (i.e., expelling the CO2 that roasting causes the beans to give off), for when I brewed some AeroPress coffee with it, it foamed all over the place!

I bought the Fireside Roast, and in the words of Agent Dale Cooper, it makes "a damn fine cup of coffee."

Two days later I made a cup with beans I had ground Thursday night, and it was still fresh-tasting and great!