Breads – To Knead or Not to Knead

Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 5

I’m a fan of them all, kneaded and no-knead breads.  They are all my children and I love them, different though they be.  This week’s column is on ways to use sourdough starter in breads for flavor rather than as a leavener.  I know, I know, sourdough IS a leavener, but not for someone who has limited space and time, say someone who cooks out of a boat galley.  Therefore, because sourdough isn’t a fail proof method for me on the boat, I’ve developed my own ways of using it that don’t require so much tending.

There are also a number of other sourdough breads that I’ve posted in the past should you get super excited and find yourself on a bread roll….  Ha!

Annie
Still ‘Ha!’

No-Knead Bread 101 – Artisinal Roasted Garlic and Black Olive Bread

Bread is not easy.  Anytime we deal with a living organism, there is unpredictability.  Live things just don’t always do what we wish, or it takes longer, or it happens faster.  In any event, it’s not always on our exacting timetable.  But it doesn’t have to be so maddening.

Roasted Garlic & Olive No Knead Bread Recipe by Annie Mahle

A number of people have said to me recently that they’ve tried and failed to make their own bread.  We’re going to work on that, because once you get it, there is nothing more satisfying in the cooking world than pulling a beautiful loaf of bread out of your own oven.  Even after 25 years of cooking and making bread on a daily basis on the boat, I still love it.

We’ll begin with a step by step of the guideline/recipe in Sugar and Salt:  Book One and move on to adding grains and different ingredients.  I’ll be posting once a month or so and then take a break over the summer.  We’ll come back to it in the fall, just in time for the first chilly snap of frost that makes us think of heating the house and warming our bellies.

This recipe requires a Dutch oven.  This covered pot creates a convective space for moist air, which allows the bread to rise beautifully, and then, once the moisture has dissipated, creates a terrific crust.  I use this method at home frequently.  However, on the Riggin I need to make 4 loaves at a time – but I don’t have the space for 4 Dutch ovens.  So I choose the other, more traditional method that is in Sugar & Salt:  Book One.

Basic No-Knead Recipe
5 cups flour (or flours) of your choice
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 to 2 cups water

Roasted Garlic and Black Olive Bread
to the basic recipe add:
1 cup pitted black olives
1/3 cup peeled roasted garlic cloves; about 1 head roasted garlic

Combine all ingredients except water in a large bowl.   Add water and mix with one hand, adding water until the dough just barely forms a ball and there are no little dry bits hanging out in the bowl. Depending on how moist the olives and garlic are, the amount of water can vary from 1 cup to 2 cups.   This dough should feel too wet to knead and like biscuit dough in moisture content.

Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap; and let the dough rise at room temperature overnight, until the surface of the dough has risen and is flat, not rounded.  For those who have worked with traditional kneaded dough, this will look like a disaster.  Just wait, it will be fine.

Place a Dutch oven (an oven proof pan with a lid) into the oven.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Shape the dough into a round boule by tucking the dough loosely under itself; place the loaf in a bowl lined with parchment paper.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise again until doubled, another 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Slash the tops of the loaf with a sharp knife and transfer the parchment paper and dough to the hot Dutch oven and cover with the hot lid.

Bake until the exterior is golden brown and the bottom is firm; about 50 to 70 minutes (no peeking for at least the first half hour).  Remove from both the oven and the Dutch oven and let cool before slicing.

No Knead Bread – Roasted Pear and Oatmeal Bread

No knead sourdough bread is super easy on the arms and the Kitchen Aid.  All it takes is time.  After the dust of the holiday festivities had settled, I still had a refrigerator full of food needing immediate use.  This bread began with a little bit of leftover oatmeal from the morning’s breakfast and became something special with the addition of roasted pears that I’d used for a cheese plate a week earlier.

Do I have a recipe to share?  Nope.  Who wants to actually roast pears before making this bread?  As much as I love cooking, not even I would say yes.  The trick is to make creative interesting meals with what you already have on hand.

As a guide, rather than a recipe I use 2 cups of wet or liquid ingredients including some sourdough starter.  In this case the pears and the oatmeal.  I then use the ratio of 5 cups flour: 1 tablespoon yeast: 1 tablespoon salt to the 2 cups of wet for each loaf of bread.  Here’s where it gets tricky – the moisture content is never the same when you are using leftovers.  You want your dough to be the consistency of sticky biscuit dough.  If you are a traditional bread maker who is used to kneading, you know that this is a mess waiting to cover your arms to the elbows.  Don’t fret though, it doesn’t hurt anything to add a bit more flour or water depending on which way you need to go.   In this case time will be your friend.

With these loaves you can see from the photo that I also pressed them flat, sprinkled them with cinnamon and demerera sugar and then rolled them into loaves for the loaf pans.

For more detailed process see my post on no knead sourdough bread.

No Knead Sourdough Bread

Annie
Usin’ what I got

Cook the Book – Focaccia

Focaccia

We usually have focaccia at some point during the week on the boat.  I make it with several of the toppings, below, for lunch, or as an accompaniment to an entrée.

1 1/2  tablespoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Cornmeal for dusting

Combine the yeast, salt, and flour in a large bowl. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, reserving 1/4 cup water.  Add more water if needed. Knead for 10-15 minutes. Oil the bowl and the top of the dough, cover, and set aside in a warm, draft free place to rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Preheat oven to 350° and oil two cookie pans. After the first rise divide the dough and place half on each pan.  Work both pieces flat either with your hands or with a rolling pin.  If the dough is fighting you (keeps shrinking back when you stretch it), just let it rest for 5 minutes and continue until it reaches the edge of the cookie pan. Oil the top of the dough and let it rise until doubled.  Press your fingers quickly into the dough all over the surface as if you were playing the piano and then dust with both salt and pepper.  Bake until golden brown (around 35 minutes).

Makes 2 focaccia

Some of my favorite focaccia toppings:

Green Olive Tapenade and Goat Cheese
Ricotta and Prosciutto
Caramelized Onion, Sautéed Green and Red Peppers with Onion
Red Onion, Mushroom and Parmesan Cheese

Stovetop Focaccia

Our good friend Jim Amaral is a baker and owns a fabulous statewide bakery called Borealis Breads.  He uses organic wheat grown by farmers in Aroostook County (“The County” as it’s called, covers most of Northern Maine) and has done more for the quality of bread making in the state than any other business around.  He and his family came sailing with us a few years ago and when he saw my woodstove, his first comment was about how great it would be to bake flat bread on TOP of the stove.  Of course I’m used to cooking stews and the like on top of the stove, but baking bread had never occurred to me.  We tested it out that week in many different ways.  After several tries and the indignity of having smoke billowing from my galley, I now use the stovetop at least once a week, most often to make a basic focaccia.  I clear the pots off of the stove and then clean it.  I don’t oil it because of the aforementioned smoke, but simply throw down a fairly thin piece of dough directly on the stove surface.  I find myself needing to move it frequently as there are many hot spots that will scorch the bread.  Once I’ve flipped the bread over, I oil it and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.  This bread should be served immediately.

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