Sunday, October 05, 2008

just in time for fall

Oh, we'll have sun breaks and dry spells and blue skies, now and again, but the drizzle and the bluster and the growing drifts of soggy leaves spell Goodbye Summer, in case last week's surprisingly warm temps caused any confusion. And when the cooler weather sets in, when the windows are splattered with rain and we all start thinking about wearing socks again, what's better than a crusty loaf of bread right out of the oven? Freshly baked bread is good in any weather, but the start of Autumn always makes me extra enthusiastic about the simple pleasure of a slice of bread and a bowl of soup.

dutch oven bread

I saw that No Knead recipe floating around, on the blog of a friend a while ago and on the blogs of some of those top tier popular patty types. And I admit I was dubious. I mean, I'm sure it's fine and tasty and all that, but what's bread making minus the Knead? That's like sewing without the, uh, needle threading. Oh wait, the automatic threader on my machine is pretty nifty. It's like sleeping without the pajamas. I don't know! It's less than, that's all I'm saying, less than the whole experience that I find pleasurable. I have written plenty about how I appreciate the mundane details, because even the dumb work we gotta do amasses into something spectacular (Life! how fantastic is that?!) and I am suspicious of employing too many time saving devices that, at the end of the day, get us to the same dang spot without the exhilaration of having done it all ourselves. That's a good feeling. (so says the woman who is over. done. finished with life without dishwasher. install an automatic, maytag, used, new, whatever and I won't ever, not once, bemoan losing the Little Red Hen-ness of scouring up a sink full of dishes. I swear!).

I like kneading bread dough. I have small appliance envy with regard to dehydrators and a vita mix, but care not to acquire a bread machine. I don't like the uniform bricky shape, for one, and I just dig making bread, for two. And while I seem not to do it as often as I should (save for the Sunday night pizza dough standard) fresh bread happens often enough around here, especially in cold weather, that it's not that unusual.

I have this new (old) Descoware dutch oven, shipped to me by my mom, found in my grandmother's kitchen, unused for decades, inherited from an Aunt, so long ago. And when it came in the mail a few weeks ago, I thought: bread! Okay, first I thought: score! Another piece of cast iron enamelware for my burgeoning secondhand collection.

my vintage cast iron enamelware

But then I remembered, oh! Dutch Oven = No Knead bread recipe. Okay, why not? And guess what? It's great! The kneading part isn't missed because the bread dough, in its slow rise over a day, becomes such a part of Kitchen Life, tucked in the corner on the counter in a bowl or plopped down front and center on a cornmeal dusted dishtowel, that I don't feel like I'm missing anything by skipping the kneading. Am I really making references to getting to know my bread dough? And then asserting that, yes, appropriate relationship can be formed without the visceral work of kneading? Yeah, I am.

When it came time to try this recipe out for the first time, I just googled it and pulled up the one published at Mother Earth News, though, it seems like there is little variation between versions. I thought it might be incorrect at first because it calls for but a quarter teaspoon of yeast. And just 3 cups of flour. I think it's a great recipe for maximizing limited ingredients (which is something we might all be doing more of from now on out).

It makes a nice, crusty loaf. Soft on the inside with lots of air pockets. Good chewy texture. (My great grandmother used to say: the middle's for your tummy and the crust is for your teeth). Slight tangy flavor, it only rises a day, so it's no sourdough, but it has a more complex taste than your standard loaf bread, I'd say.

I've made it a few times in the last week and I think it's going to be a regular around here.


Lisa said...

See! I told ya it was great. I've been waiting for this post since you alluded to it several days ago.

What a beautiful piece of kitchenware that dutch oven is.

Angelina said...

I have some serious dutch oven envy! Both of you have them and I still don't.

I'm curious to know if you are using spelt flour?

Some day I will join you two in the Dutch oven love and make some of this bread too.

It looks great!

april. said...

surprisingly, i haven't used spelt flour yet for this recipe. that's been my standard flour for years, but i just got a 25# of unbleached wheat (with the germ remaining) from azure because it was more affordable.

Angelina said...

Are you feeling less healthy from eating it? Is it harder to digest? (I'm curious). I need to get some flour from Asure myself but I haven't been able to catch the Azure train in a while.

I must make bread soon.