Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Loaf of Perfection

So I'm a little late getting to the table on this one (ha) but I just made the perfect bread. This recipe (free registration required) was printed in the New York Times last November, but my previous attempts at no-knead bread had convinced me that no effort = no bread worth eating. However, a good 47 billion people have made -- and loved -- the recipe (this website called it "the food bloggers' clapotis" and you totally get Martha points if you've made both) and I've been craving bread recently. I'm still not sure why I decided to try this one, probably because my last attempt at breadmaking was a bit of a disappointment. (It turned out edible...but not in proportion to the amount of fuss and work that it required.) I was a little surprised that the recipe required neither sugar nor oil, but fine, so be it. I planned on following the recipe exactly, as anyone that calls for 1 and 5/8 cups water intends for their recipe to be followed exactly. But following a recipe exactly requires willpower and ability to blindly follow directions, both of which I lack. (In this case, it would have also required cotton towels, an 8 quart-oven safe pot, A/C, and cornmeal. I don't have those either.) So I changed the following: added 2 T wheat gluten (probably not necessary, but I like it); rose the bread for about 2 hours in a 90F kitchen, then the fridge overnight (about 12 hours), then about 3 more hours in a 90F kitchen (all for the first rise -- the recipe calls for a 70F kitchen and if I hadn't refrigerated the dough it would have over-risen and collapsed); and did the second rise in a floured metal bowl, covered with floured plastic wrap. I baked it in a 3.5 qt pot, which worked very well.

So here is the final beauty:

And a closeup of the crumb.

I may never knead again.


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