No-Knead Bread

In the morning, I have a habit of flipping through How to Cook Everything over breakfast. I’ll open to a random page and skim a few recipes, then move on with my day. A few weeks ago I did this and found the page for Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread. It sounded fascinating – bread you barely touch that comes out fancy and artisanal? Rock on! I finally got a chance to try it over the weekend, and I now believe this is one of the best things I’ve ever made. If I made this for a person I was trying to court he’d fall in love with me instantly. Kings would bow to me and presidents would give me medals.

I am convinced this bread ends wars.

I won’t post the recipe here for two reasons. One: mine came directly from a copyrighted book and I respect intellectual property rights. Two: it’s really easy to find online. I will, however, share the process.

 This was my first attempt at the dough. It was entirely too wet and I ended up pitching it. (Side note: too-wet whole wheat bread dough makes an incredibly convincing fake puke.)

 The second attempt, and the one that worked out. It’s wet and shaggy, per instructions, but not too wet. At this point, before the first (18-hour!) rise, I was not entirely convinced this would work.

 After a few hours it was obvious the yeast was behaving exactly as it was supposed to. Good yeast!

 And after the 18 hours had passed, the dough looked like the best and most delicious kind of swamp beast. Success! At this point the dough also had a lovely slightly sour flavor, which made me want to figure out no-knead sourdough bread.

 The loaf about to go into the oven. I used a small amount of oat bran during the last rising to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface, and also because oat bran is awesome and deserves to be in everything, more or less.

 Is this not one of the prettiest things you’ve ever seen? I had to let it sit for 30 minutes before I could cut it, during which time I nearly went mad with desire. The smell. You can’t imagine how good it smells.

 The delicious perfect chewy air-holey interior that takes oh so well to a smear of butter or a fried egg.

I may have to make more tonight.

Delicata Squash

A new kind of winter squash (what? winter? it’s still almost 90 degrees out!) showed up in my CSA box last week. They were out of spaghetti squash so instead I got delicata. This lovely little vine fruit is secretly a summer squash but is treated like its winter cousins. Having never seen a delicata before, I consulted my old friends Mark Bittmann and The Internet. Both advised me that roasting was the way to go, and so I did.

I wish I could show you pictures of the end result, but…there isn’t anything left. It came out so well I almost couldn’t help eating every last slice while they were still hot enough to burn my tongue. I hope to get more next week. (Secretly, I really hope for spaghetti squash. Why? So I can make spaghetti squash and meatballs, of course.)

Roasted Delicata Squash

(makes enough for, oh, let’s say 2 side dishes, or one me-sized snack)

2 squash, scrubbed clean and not peeled, about 1 pound each
olive oil
salt, pepper, other spices as per your inclination

Set the oven to 400. Prepare the squash in one of several ways:

  • Slice off the ends, then cut into 1/2″ thick rounds, removing the seeds with a knife, a spoon, or your fingers (this is what I did)
  • OR slice the whole thing longways, remove the seeds, and slice into half-moons
  • OR poke the skin a couple times with a knife and roast whole

(Keep the seeds if you want – clean off the guts and roast those suckers right along with the squash.)

Drizzle olive oil all over a rimmed cookie sheet. Lay the slices onto the sheet, flip once, and season. Cook for about 40 minutes or until everything is caramelized and lovely, flipping once halfway through. If you decided not to slice, cook it until you can poke the skin easily with a knife, rotating once or twice during the cooking process.

Try not to remove too many taste buds eating directly from the cookie sheet.

Challah

Image

I made challah today, following a recipe I’ve used several times before (here). It came out beautifully, but didn’t rise enough. I’ll have to figure something else out next time. For now, though, this will have to do.

My family is Jewish, and challah was everpresent at synagogue on Saturday mornings. Round challah with raisins was a special favorite for Rosh Hashanah, the new year. It lends itself well to sandwiches, or just being slathered in honey. But my favorite is French toast. I can’t wait to share this with my friends on Friday.

Making challah is fun and easy. It takes all day, but most of it is hands-off, and it’s worth it. Mixing and kneading takes up all of 15 minutes, and then the rest is 3 separate risings, during which you can do chores, cook the rest of your meal, or read. It would certainly be easier with a stand mixer, but until I get one…

Catching up

I’ve been so bad about posting. I’ve also been bad about cooking, so I guess it makes sense. Last week I went on a much-anticipated and much-needed vacation to California, so I could visit family and watch two very close friends get married. While I was there, I got some impromptu cooking lessons from my friend Maddy, who is trying to start her own catering company. (San Francisco Bay Area readers, take note, and find her at The Barbarian Gourmet.) Her task for the wedding was to make all the food for the bachelorette party, which took the two of us a couple of days, in between all the other wedding-related tasks. But we did it, and I still dream of her Israeli couscous salad.

Also while I was out there, I visited my cousin and her (very) soon-to-be husband. They own a beautiful 3/4-acre lot filled to the brim with over 200 trees and vines. Very nearly our entire dinner came from their garden. I really enjoyed talking with both of them about growing seasons and living sustainably. While most of their plans are far, far out of my reach, I’m definitely more motivated to start a garden than ever before.

This Friday, I’m having the first of what I hope will be monthly dinner parties. The theme is breakfast and I’ll be prepping for it all week. My hope is to post on everything I make, either as they come out or next weekend. So keep an eye out for

  • Challah (and Challah French toast)
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Pop Tarts (really!)
  • Crustless quiche
  • Hashbrown waffles
  • Potato-leek soup (not for the party, but because I got a lot of potatoes and leeks in my CSA box this week)
  • Black bean cakes (need something protein-filled to go with the soup)