Sunday, July 27, 2008

Williams-Sonoma Parmesan-Black Pepper No-Knead Bread

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I've been thinking about making no-knead bread for the past few weeks (because it's so easy and I'm so lazy), but I wanted something a little jazzier. I noticed a recipe for Lemon Rosemary NKB on the Williams-Sonoma web site, and thought that sounded good, but I didn't get around to going to the grocery store until I'd run out of time. But I saw the recipe for Parmesan-Black Pepper bread on the same site, and I had all the ingredients for that, so I got ready to bake. (This, by the way, must be the first bread I've ever made that has three hyphens in the bread title).
Well, of course, I immediately remembered why NKB has been so popular--it's so dang easy! Flour, yeast, salt, and water. Mix it up, and let it sit overnight. I added two teaspoons of freshly grated black pepper (that's a lot of pepper!), grated parmesan, and chunks of parmesan as well, so it took slightly more than three minutes. Maybe six.

After somewhere between 12 and 18 hours (I waited about 13 hours), you have a soft, spongy dough that's ready to be dumped out on a floured counter, where it can rest for 15 minutes. (Or 45 if you forget about it--I don't think that resting an extra half-hour hurts a person or a loaf of bread).

You shape it into something aproximating a boule, and place it on a cotton dishtowel that's been scattered with cornmeal. Strew some more cornmeal on top, cover it with another cotton towel, and go out and work in your garden for two hours until it's properly risen.

Obviously, you don't have to work in your garden, but you might as well.
At this point, you have already preheated a cast-iron pot. The directions say, "Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over, seam side up, into the pot; it may look like a mess [indeed it does], but that is OK [not really].
My other loaves of NKB have looked fine when removed from the oven, but this one looked like a mess when I put it in, and it never straightened out. I still don't understand why I have to put the ugly side up when I'm making this bread.

The recipe gets extremely optimistic at this point because it tells you that your bread will easily come out of the pan. But the people at Williams-Sonoma forgot that this variation of NKB has a cup of parmesan cheese in it, and that the lovely chunks of parmesan have browned and clung to the pan for dear life. It was a battle between me and the cheese, and the cheese was winning, but I took a break, sneaked back up on it, and I won.

This bread looks innocent enough, but it is very, very peppery, which is fine, if you like pepper. If you don't, you would probably want to cut back on the pepper.

As it happened, it was a good thing I made this bread today. I'm on the board of our neighborhood association, which just held a raffle to make money for a neighborhood art project. The first prize was at least $800 worth of wine. I sold some raffle tickets in my block. My friend Betty called me today and told me that she'd won first prize. I first said, "congratulations," then I said, "why don't you have a wine party tonight?" So she did, and I brought the black pepper parmesan bread, which went pretty well with the three bottles of wine that she opened.

--from adapted from recipe at

3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. yeast
1 3/4 t. salt
2 t. coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 c. granted Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese chunks.
1 1/2 c. plus 2 T. water
Cornmeal as needed.

Combine flour, yest, salt, black pepper, grated cheese and cheese chunks. Add water and stir until blended. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 12 to 18 hours.

Place dough on slightly floured work surface. Sprinkle dough with a little flour and fold it over onto itself a few times. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and lest rest for 15 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball. Coat a cotton towel with cornmeal. Put the dough, seam side down, on the towl. Dust with more cornmeal, cover with another cotton towel, and let rise about two hours.

Remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough, seam side up, into the pot. If it looks messy, shake the pan to try to distribute the dough, but be aware that it may not turn into a perfect loaf. Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the loaf is browned, 15 to 30 minutes more.

Transfer pot to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Turn pot on its side and gently loosen bread with metal spatula. It will come out, but it won't be easy.

Put cast-iron pot in oven and preheat to 450.

P.S. I just want to say that it's very hard to buy good bread, which is one argument for baking your own. Aside from a few excellent bakeries, most purchased bread is a disappointment. Case in point: I bought two "ciabatta rolls" from Whole Foods, which is a pretty good grocery store. The rolls were awful: tasteless and stale. They should be ashamed of themselves for selling such bad bread, but they're probably not.


Melinda said...

Oh, that looks very good. I like peppery and cheesy bread, so I am sure to love it!

Why don't you just put your no knead to rise on a bed of cornmeal, that is scattered on parchment paper? Then you can easily drop the boule into the smouldering hot pot. I've made a billion (slightly less, if we are being totally correct)
of these and it has a terrific crust and zero fuss putting the darn thing in and taking it out.
Of course...this is only a suggestion. Cheers, from 'ole bossy-boots Melinda

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie and friends-

This bread looks great! Really beautiful, IMO. I like Melinda's idea about the parchment. I love it when clever and simple go together. :-)

*files this technique somewhere in the back of my mind for my three-hyphen-bread attempt*

Of course, after reading how Marie likes her rules (I think this is so cute, lol), I am glad she made the recipe as written. We'll all know to think of this next time.

Hope everyone has a great week!

Laura Lee

Anonymous said...

PS: I couldn't agree more about WF. I recently bought some of their bagels, which are "OK" when fresh, but decided to slice a few and freeze them for diffucult mornings when the toaster is all I can handle. Well, oddly enough, these were the WORST toasted bagels I have ever had. The texture was deflated and tough. Worst of all, the flavor somehow left the bread completely...and these were cinnamon raisin bagels.

I won't be doing that again, lol.

Laura Lee

breadbasketcase said...

Why didn't I use parchment? 1. I forgot. It's been a while since I've made no-knead bread.
2. Even if I'd remembered, I probably wouldn't have used it because a: it's not in the recipe, and I'm the big rule-follower, remember? b: I've never had any trouble getting bread out of the pan before, and c: the parchment paper sometimes gets all wrinkly and makes the bread all wrinkly too (not that my bread was exactly beautifully shaped). If I had remembered AND I had considered how the bits of cheese were likely to stick to the pan, I would have used parchment. Where were you and your helpful suggestions when I needed them? It's just like Jim, who always says, "careful," after I trip or fall down.

Laura Lee,
Yes! I like rules! Thank you for remembering. I have never bought Whole Food bagels, and now I'm very grateful. I must make bagels again soon.

Melinda said...

Hmmm.Yes. The old rule follower rule foiled you.
You always give me a good laugh. Why can't you live closer?

breadbasketcase said...

I could ask you the same question.
By the way, I need a new project--have there been any suggestions for the next Lazy Bakers' recipe?

Melinda said...

None yet. Have you got something in mind?

breadbasketcase said...

No, but I'll take directions.

Melinda said...

How about something as generic as cupcakes, but the cupcakes have to be fancy decorated but how ever you want to do it. We should be amused or bedazzled with the effort. The theme is 'summer'.
Do you like this idea or is it not enough rules? Too Marthaesque?

Anonymous said...

Hi Melinda & Marie,

If you are thinking of a project outside of The Lazy Baker's Club, how about something from RLB's pastry bible? With all the good summer fruit around, it might be a good idea.

Marie, I am always glad to see you tackle a project that is a bit scary since (1) you do a great job and there is something to learn for all and (2) your writing is so entertaining when you are challenged. I like how you handle little problems that you come across in a recipe. It makes me feel better when I, too, am stuck!

Just my two cents!

Laura Lee

Melinda said...

I have no objections to doing something from the Pie and Pastry Bible. Love to and I have her book.
Up to you, Marie.

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breadbasketcase said...

Melinda and Laura Lee,
Am I worse at cake decorating or at pie crust? It's about six of one and half a dozen of another. But I'm game for either one, as long as you don't laugh. Oh, you can laugh if you want to.
Pinknest is really good at pie crust, so maybe she'd like to choose a pie.

Anonymous said...

Hi there-

I promise not to laugh, Marie. I cannot speak for Melinda or Pinknest, however. :-)

If you do not have the book and were thinking of purchasing it, I recommend Amazon. Before I bought my Pastry Bible, I tried to hunt down the best deal. I had a 40% coupon from Borders (I belong to their club) and once tax was added I think I saved all of $1 over the Amazon price. Plus, you qualify for free shipping. If you aren't planning on purchasing the book just now, I am happy to scan a recipe and e-mail you.

Let me know.

Laura Lee

Melinda said...

Marie knows I like it it when she makes me laugh!
You have to ask Pinknest to pick out something.

breadbasketcase said...

Laura Lee,
It's okay--you can laugh. Thanks so much for the offer--but I do have a copy of The Pie and Pastry Bible. It's not as well-used as The Bread Bible, because of my Fear of Piecrust. In fact, I was going to try going through the whole Pastry Bible, but then I thought about how Jim and I would look after eating a pie or two a week, and I abandoned the idea.

I'll see if Pinknest wants to choose.

Marty said...

Marie, I agree with your bread quality comment. One thing I find scary is when I open the napkin,and try the product in the "bread basket" at "good" restaurants. Makes me glad I bake bread.

Jude said...

We have the same Lodge cast iron pot!
The big chunks of parmesan would be great on any bread. Yum.

Doughadear said...

Hi Marie
Just got back from vacation (where I saw the implosion of the Spy Glass hotel which was across from the hotel we were staying - very impressive and the escape of Criss Angel - not so much) so I had to check what you had baked and read your delightful story that always makes me laugh. Although you may have not been happy with the shape I think it looks just fine. It must have been great with the wine.

breadbasketcase said...

I have had some excellent bread in restaurants, but you're right--too often I've been sorry I even bothered with it, and I love bread (obviously).

I got the Lodge pot on Rose's recommendation, and I love it. It's not only wonderful for bread, but also for stews and soups. And so beautiful!

I read about the hotel implosion and Criss Angel's escape! I don't understand why they let him inside--just seems like there would be such mammoth iability issues.

Anonymous said...

Is this recipe available by weight? Volume is not really a good way to measure flour.


breadbasketcase said...

I agree that weight is the better way to measure. This recipe was not available by weight.
If I'm not feeling too lazy, I just go to The Bread Bible's section on weight substitutions for volume, which tells me that 3 cups of flour is 15 ounces or 436 grams.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this recipe looks delicious. I don't have a cast iron pot, but I do have a cast iron skillet. Do you think the recipe would work in it? Thanks!!

breadbasketcase said...

I think that a cast iron skillet would probably not be tall enough, although you could give it a try. I'd be more inclined to try any kind of Dutch-oven type of pot to make sure the bread had enough room to rise.