The Caucus Cafe v1.2

Grand Opening Special: Freshly Baked Bread

Welcome to The Caucus Cafe and what I hope will be a regular weekly series featuring recipes, food discussions and a place to ask for help with your own “kitchen conundrum.” Everyone has to eat. More importantly food is a great way to bring people together and that’s always a wonderful thing. Last week we opened our larder and found seasonal clementines. Tonight we’re sharing a genuinely easy-to-make country-style boule.

Here’s to many more weeks of sharing good food, recipes and friendship! Now, go pour yourself your favorite beverage because we’re going to get to why we came - the food. I’ll wait. Take a sip, put your feet up, and let’s get to it...

I became fascinated with yeast as a child. As far as I was concerned, the best treats were made of dough. My mother was an avid baker. She taught me to knead during the summer between fifth and sixth grade. My father was remodeling our kitchen, so he moved the stove and refrigerator to our basement. It was a hot summer, but the deep basement of our old farmhouse was nice and cool. I don’t think it had ever dawned on my mom what a nice place it could be to bake in before then.

And bake we did. Pastries, breads, sticky buns...

At the time, I was active in 4-H. Our county fair was the second week in August. I decided I was entering all the yeast categories, not that there were all that many, but you get the idea. I even entered fancy baked goods. Everyone else in fancy brought decorated cakes that were so large, you could serve a wedding reception. My tree shaped cinnamon rolls drizzled with a confectionary sugar and water mixture didn’t impress the judges.

Most kids would have went home in tears. I had a few, but it didn’t take long to knead my bruised ego away. I’d be back. Over the next several years I continued to bake. I even won an award (a dinky pin and a certificate really) for outstanding achievement in yeast one year before I graduated high school.

And then something happened. I went away to college and became more interested in football games, dates and bar hopping when I wasn’t pouring over ways to explain variables in economic models. Fast forward some years. Enough stories of my childhood culinary adventures came out that MrLear decided to coax out a few loaves of bread, one at a time. My birthday and Christmas presents became kitchen tools: baguette pans, pizza stone, a Kitchen Aid...

For years now I’ve been baking up a storm. You name it, I bake it. I even buy caraway seeds by the pound because we make so much rye bread. And then, damn if something else didn’t happen. I found a recipe I downloaded, but never tried. It was Mark Bittman’s original article on a no-knead, bread-in-a-pot technique and a recipe from the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York.

It got me wondering. It just couldn’t be that simple, could it? Several days later when I visited my local library, I stopped by section 641 and checked out My Bread by Jim Lahey, founder of the Sullivan Street Bakery. From the introduction to his book:

“The article, written by Mark Bittman, had an immediate impact: a cascade of Internet traffic that resulted in home bakers all around the world giving it a shot---and reporting great success.

“That’s just what I always wanted. I wanted to do whatever I could to help bread matter more, for people to fall in love with bread and I did when I began baking two decades ago. The object of my deepest affection, especially early on, was the rustic, deep-flavored bread of the Italian countryside."

Amen.

I don’t care if you’ve never made a loaf of bread before, you MUST try this. It’s utterly amazing. No wonder this no-knead method of baking has acquired an almost cult-like following. You can put a loaf of rustic bread on your table every day. It only takes a few minutes of time and a few pennies for the ingredients. Watch this video demonstration by Bittman and Lahey.

Yes, you need a dutch oven. One that’s four to five quarts is perfect for this recipe. Buy one at a yard sale if you don’t already have one. Don’t even worry about why it works.

The Basic No-Knead Bread Recipe by Jim Lahey

3 cups (430g) flour
1 ½ cups (345g or 12oz) water
¼ teaspoon (1g) yeast
1 ¼ teaspoon (8g) salt
olive oil (for coating)
extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal (for dusting)

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add water and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lightly coat the inside of a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65-72°F).

Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface. Next, shape the dough into ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not a terry cloth one) with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450-500°F. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes Then remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned. Remove from pot and cool on a rack before slicing.

In a nut shell, the long, slow rise has the same affect on the ingredients as kneading. The blazing hot dutch oven simulates a bakers oven - it’s very hot and lid traps in the steam, which contribute to a good rise and a great crust.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve made this bread and several variations. I’ve added wheat and rye flours, cheese, herbs, cocoa powder and dried cherries, unsweetened coconut and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Everyone of them has been better than the one before. Every one of them has been consumed with gusto in lightning time. This bread brings smiles to people’s faces. I’m hooked.

Of course, I’ll still make breads that require kneading. But as Alton Brown says, “that’s another show.”

A few pictures as proof positive, that anyone can make this bread in an ordinary home oven. It weighs about 20 ounces. Similar loaves sell for between $5 and $6 at local stores.

Fresh out of the oven

Cooling for a few moments

I’ve adjusted the recipe to work with a three quart dutch oven too:

2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
olive oil (for coating)
extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal (for dusting)

The baking time without the lid is about 8-10 for the smaller loaf. A three quart dutch oven will fit into a 12” tabletop convection oven. I’ve baked several loaves successfully this way. You may need to remove the nob from the lid if you need a little more clearance - just plug the hole it leaves by threading some aluminum foil through and fanning it out over the opening.

That’s it for now folks. We’ll see you again next Wednesday with another Caucus Cafe special. Same time. Same Channel.

In the mean time, please feel free to share a recipe or a culinary custom with your fellow 99%ers.

Finally, an old Irish toast:

"May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead."

Share
up
8 users have voted.

Comments

MarilynW's picture

I don't mind kneading though, it's good exercise for my hands. But what I am really looking for is the best pizza dough recipé for a thin crust pizza. No need for a no-knead recipé. Wink

up
8 users have voted.
Cordelia Lear's picture

Makes 2 12" pizzas.

Ingredients

153 grams 00 flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
153 grams all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons)
8 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)
2 grams active dry yeast (3/4 teaspoon)
4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 teaspoon)

Method

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours and salt.
2. In a small mixing bowl, stir together 200 grams (about 1 cup) lukewarm tap water, the yeast and the olive oil, then pour it into flour mixture. Knead with your hands until well combined, approximately 3 minutes, then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.
3. Knead rested dough for 3 minutes. Cut into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Place on a heavily floured surface, cover with dampened cloth, and let rest and rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. (If you refrigerate the dough, remove it 30 to 45 minutes before you begin to shape it for pizza.)
4. To make pizza, place each dough ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it, then your hands to shape it into rounds or squares. Top and bake.

In my book there's four parts to good thin crust pizza:
1) you need at least some really good super fine flour (try King Arthur if you don't have an Italian or French supplier near by)
2) the dough really needs a good rest
3) you need a pizza stone in your oven pre-heated for about an hour at 500 to bake the pizza on
4) use a pizza peel to put the pie in the oven and to take it out

Let us know if you try it and what you think.

up
6 users have voted.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." --Paul Wellstone

MarilynW's picture

I will let you know.

up
4 users have voted.
gulfgal98's picture

and I just finished eating dinner. I need to get a Dutch oven and try this. Biggrin

up
7 users have voted.

"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare." Sun Tzu

"Propaganda is one hell of a drug." Abby Martin

"Politicians are cowards." Mike Gravel

Cordelia Lear's picture

You might get a real bargain there or at an estate sale.

I was lucky enough to have a grandmother who gave me a dutch oven (the orange one in the pix) as a present to celebrate the first apartment I had on my own after I graduated from college. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have a fair number of them now ranging from my mother's that came from Holland in the 40's (a shower gift from her godmother) to a cheap 3 qt. one I bought at a big box chain when I decided to reduce the recipe to eliminate a left over at the end of the day and I was curious about table top oven possibilities.

The brand of oven I prefer for this bread is an Emil Henri. Yes, better than Le Cruset for this recipe. Not that anyone should worry because the difference if you're making an occasional loaf is minuscule.

Enjoy!

up
5 users have voted.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." --Paul Wellstone

dance you monster's picture

Funny, someone just mentioned this Sullivan Street Bakery bread recipe to me yesterday. Thanks for saving me the trouble of looking for it!

But you want a recipe from me, now, don't you? Well, y'know what goes with bread: . . . soup. And in deference to the simplicity of this bread recipe, I'll post the simplest of soups, a French potato-leek number that also goes by the name of Vichyssoise.

I said it's simple.

Melt half a stick of unsalted butter in a big (minimum 1.5 gallon) soup pot. Add six or more leeks (bearing in mind that there's no such thing as too many leeks), the white part, finely chopped and washed, and saute 'til clear, not browned. Add four big (or six medium) peeled and quartered russet potatoes and five or six cups of chicken or turkey stock (you do make and freeze stock every time you have a whole chicken or turkey, right? But you can also buy it, getting the low-sodium version, I want you guys around in my old age). Bring to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are done, maybe a half-hour (maybe while your no-knead bread is cooking). Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Add some white pepper (black will do, too, but it leaves little black specks in a soup that is decidedly white) to taste.

There's the potato-leek soup. But you want the fancy stuff? Add cream (or milk or sour cream, or any combination, depending on your gustatory preferences and the thickness you want for your soup) until it looks and tastes right, up to maybe a cup of whichever you choose (sorry, I never measure). There, now it's Vichyssoise. Serve hot (in winter) or cold (in summer), but preferably with some fresh or frozen chives sprinkled over it. Marvelous with a hearty bread. Which you just made, right?

I'd close with a French toast to match your Irish one, but French toast doesn't go with this soup as well as just plain bread does.

dance

up
9 users have voted.
Cordelia Lear's picture

We love soup. and frequently make long-simmering onion soup (ala Julia Child). The next time I see some nice leeks I shall make your recipe.

And yes, I do make stock. I don't freeze it though. I can it. My parents lived in a place that was prone to losing electricity for a few years - the same farm house my dad redid the kitchen in the summer I learned to bake. Back then the best home chest freezers would only keep food for about 24 hours. It was too big a risk to freeze something the could be canned. Old habits die hard.

up
5 users have voted.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." --Paul Wellstone

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

holding myself back from inviting myself over to your house for soup Smile LOL!

up
5 users have voted.

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Cordelia Lear's picture

that's normal and if it doesn't come on your first or second batch keep at it. Getting the heat and steam combo right is a matter of getting to know your stove and your dutch oven and how they work together as well as how long to let the dough rise for the temperature and humidity of your kitchen.

If you can get the rise and crack, you'll have a lovely airy bread with a great crumb/texture.

up
6 users have voted.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." --Paul Wellstone

shaharazade's picture

I love the cracked tops of artisan breads they make me feel like the bread is so crusty it can't contain itself.

up
3 users have voted.
Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

My current bread angst is that we have not only gone vegan, but have to some extent foresworn white flour. I miss the lightness. A lot.

We're also no longer baking with butter, which is rather distressing. My boyfriend makes the most wonderful baking-powder biscuits. And now--they're not hockey pucks, by any means, but they are crumbly and dense because the lightening qualities of butter are missing. It makes me sad. And that goes for all the cobblers and dumplings as well.

That looks like a great bread.

up
6 users have voted.

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Cordelia Lear's picture

If it's due to how some manufacturers process it to death, there are alternatives in high end flours.

Even if you're using all wheat or rye they can lighented up with flaked wheat germ. Try Bob's Red Mill products.

up
6 users have voted.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." --Paul Wellstone

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

And refined flour and sugar aren't very good for anybody, and one of us is diabetic, so it's even worse for her.

We've been using Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, which is nice, but nothing can really beat the lovely lightness of white flour--even when you combine it 1/2 and 1/2 with whole wheat flour, it makes such a difference.

We haven't given it up altogether, but it's become more of a "treat" food.

up
6 users have voted.

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Cordelia Lear's picture

of flours. One knows dough is ready by how it feels not by exactly measuring ingredients. Just add flour slowly.

I'm always tossing wheat germ and flax seeds into muffins and no-knead breads. Don't be afraid to experiment even when the recipe doesn't include different grains. There's lots of ways to get around overly processed flours and sugars (I use a lot of honey).

up
5 users have voted.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." --Paul Wellstone

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

up
5 users have voted.

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

shaharazade's picture

I have noticed in the bulk flour section that there is a flour that says it's 'white' whole wheat. I think this means that it's a whole variety of wheat that's white. I have also noticed a red heirloom spring wheat floor that says it's whole grain both these flours are less course then regular whole wheat.

We have started buying when I can find them whole grain farro products like pasta and even cookies. I haven't found a farro flour but it is a non hybridized very old variety of wheat. I like farro pasta as it doesn't get gooey when cooked like most whole wheat pasta's do, plus it has a nutty nice flavor. I just found this about farro, google is handy..I just learned somethings about ferro.

http://nourishedkitchen.com/where-to-buy/#flours

"Farro is an Italian word that encompasses three varieties of heirloom grains: einkorn, spelt and emmer wheat. These are referred to respectively as farro piccolo, farro grande and farro medio. So rather than being a single grain, farro is a collection of three grains and the term farro can refer to any of these three grains."

"What is high extraction flour, and how is it made?
High extraction flour is a traditionally milled flour that has been sifted to remove some, but not all, of the grain’s original bran and germ. I favor this kind of flour for baking, for long-term storage and to use with the whole grain flours I mill myself. Traditionally milled high extraction flour is prepared first by soaking the grains (upwards of 24 hours) drying them, then grinding them to form a whole grain flour."
The resulting flour is then typically sifted to remove most, but not all, of the bran and germ and is a traditional practice in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Removing a portion of the bran and germ increases the stability of the flour, decreasing the odds that the fragile fatty acids found in the bran and germ will go rancid. "

"Einkorn Flour and High-extraction Flour.
I favor einkorn, a nonhybridized heirloom wheat, for my baking as it’s richer in phytonutrients, minerals and protein than many hybridized grains and it is well-tolerated by those who may be otherwise sensitive to modern wheat. I recommend Jovial Foods high-extraction flour for general baking for general baking, as well as sourdoughs and breads. "

https://jovialfoods.com/shop/einkorn/flour.html

Jovial Foods have great cookies and tasty sourdough crackers. Think I'll try their whole grain Einkorn pasta. I buy imported Italian farro pasta at a local store called Pasta Works but it's really expensive. 3.50 a box seems a lot better then the 6.00$ they have started charging for imported ferro pasta. I try to buy locally but hey if our shops and stores don't offer whole grain products I'm going online and buying them from their sources.

up
4 users have voted.
gulfgal98's picture

I am learning so much. No wonder I am not a great cook, just decent. I never try anything different. Maybe y'all might just inspire me. Wink

up
4 users have voted.

"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare." Sun Tzu

"Propaganda is one hell of a drug." Abby Martin

"Politicians are cowards." Mike Gravel

dkmich's picture

Somethings require a knack, a karmic connection. Pie crusts and stroodle, pizza, bread and pasta dough absolutely do.

up
7 users have voted.

"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

*donate to c99 *like us on Facebook *follow us on Twitter

gulfgal98's picture

is that it seems that a lot of really good bakers can tell if the dough is right by touch. A lot of cooking is an art but baking is a science. IMHO. Smile

up
5 users have voted.

"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare." Sun Tzu

"Propaganda is one hell of a drug." Abby Martin

"Politicians are cowards." Mike Gravel

Cordelia Lear's picture

is science. You need to follow the recipe exactly, or if you change it it has to be in stirct proportions. Working with yeast can be more of an art as temperature and humidty are players in how the dough comes together.

The beauty of this recipe though is that the long "rest time" of 15-18 hours from start to finish does a lot to overcome the differences in your house temp and humidity and the heavy dutch oven overcomes differences in ovens.

up
5 users have voted.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." --Paul Wellstone

shaharazade's picture

It's very chemical and precise and doesn't seem to have any room for improvisation or messing with the measurements. I am a great cook but can't even make decent corn bread. Pie crust forgetaboutit.

up
4 users have voted.
Cordelia Lear's picture

isn't my strong suit either. I've become fond of the Pillsbury packages where the crust is already rolled into a circle and then it's rolled over itself and put in a cellophane and boxed. You get two in a box. They can be frozen for a few months too.

up
5 users have voted.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." --Paul Wellstone

Cordelia Lear's picture

frequently comes through repitition - at least in IMHO. And it helps if you have someone around who "has that connection" and can explain how to adjust something.

up
6 users have voted.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." --Paul Wellstone

Unabashed Liberal's picture

all these wonderful recipes to Mr M, LOL!

Seriously, although my Mother was an excellent cook, I somehow missed the boat.

But I thoroughly enjoyed reading the recipes, and will certainly look forward to Wednesdays.

(I'm a lifelong vegetarian--and Mr M is about 80-90% a vegetarian--so bread often figures in when we plan a meal.)

I'll have to make sure that I eat before I join you guys next week--the bread looked absolutely scrumptious!

Wink

Mollie

up
2 users have voted.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."
--George Bernard Shaw, Irish Dramatist & Socialist
"We [corporations] are the government!" Actor John Colicos (1978)