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.
PARMESAN-BLACK PEPPER NO-KNEAD BREAD
--from adapted from recipe at williams-sonoma.com
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.