Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Simplifying Year: Care to Join in? No Knead Bread Redux

Happy 2013!

First of all, thanks so much to those who wished us good holidays and hoped we'd have a wonderful time at our "new tradition" Christmas Eve dinner with some of our closest friends.  It was wonderful and it definitely took the edge off of  some of the loss we were feeling.  And we had a wonderful start to 2013 at our good friends lovely Larken Springs Farm (www.larkenspringsfarm.com). Good friends and food, snow, quiet, farm animals, beauty - it always does the trick.

Here at Il Moya, we have decided that 2013 will be, the Year of Simplifying Life. So, a new area of interest for the Blog this year will be a discussion of the principles of simplifying.  How to do it, the pluses and the pitfalls, and how we really decide what we need.   I have often talked about our growing knowledge of Urban Homesteading and Self Sufficiency practices and much of what we are learning from our education in those areas leads us to realize that there's too much "stuff" in our home. So, those boxes that are filling up the basement?  One more round of peeking in and they are going to a charity.  Those closets that are spilling over with clothes we haven't worn in years?  They are going to get emptied.  The "big" built in storage in our office/library is really packed and right now, I feel that we'll need to work up to that!
Our new rule of thumb starting this year will be:  When something comes in, something goes out.  Now I know what you are thinking, we already recognize that there are exceptions to this rule - and those will cause us to have to take pause and evaluate.  For example, we are both avid readers and lovers of books - and I especially love cookbooks, which I read like they were novels. Books will be a tough one.  We're just not sure yet.  I do know that we have a large collection of cookbooks that are in those basement boxes because we somewhere along the line needed space for new books and we realized that we didn't use them.  So, we already have some books that will be donated to a good home.
A big issue for us is kitchen and cooking ware.  Those basement boxes?  They are pretty much filled with kitchen gadgets.  The more you cook - especially if you love it and practice at it - you realize that you really only need certain equipment, and you're good to go. For example, in the attached recipe for home made bread, I use our cast iron mussel pan to bake my loaf.  As a matter of fact, cast iron is something you want to consider owning - if you don't already. It's worth moving other pots and pans out to add cast iron to your kitchen.  It is incredibly versatile and hard working and provides a wonderful finish on foods.  It only needs a bit of care to keep it performing beautifully; we make eggs in ours - something that many folks think is impossible.

So, I am thinking that this highlights the First Principle of Simplifying in the Kitchen:  Does a gadget or item have more than one use?  Is it versatile?  How many other uses does it have?  Have you ever tried using it for other purposes and, if not, do you want to keep it around?

Let's learn from each other, and let's start with the Kitchen!

Name a kitchen gadget that you find to be extremely versatile, and share the many ways that you use it.  OR/AND
Name a kitchen gadget that you use for only one thing, one that you find that you move around a lot when you are not using it, and think about what other roles it could play.

Let's hear from you!

Homemade No Knead Bread
Note:  this recipe is an adaptation of the no knead bread recipe made famous by Jim Lahey. It first appeared in the New York Times in 2006.  I have had inconsistent results with it over the years.  I love the idea of it, but don't always think I get the bread intended.  This recipe appears in the new cookbook (I was gifted it, and I am very happy!), "Canal House Cooks Every Day". I believe some of the slight tweaks made by the authors works very well. The bread making is really dependent on passive time - your time prepping it is really minimal and believe me, it is delicious.  Once you get the technique down, you can start to adapt your own additions to the bread.

Makes one large loaf:


3 - 3 3/4's cups all purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting; Canal House calls for 3 cups, but when I made it, I needed the additional 3/4 cup of flour.  But this is often based on weather, the flour itself, and other factors so you have to look for the consistency explained below. Start with 3 cups.

1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons water


Whisk together flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl
Add the water and using a wooden spoon, stir until blended
The dough will be shaggy and sticky.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest for 18 hours (yep 18 hours, no knead remember?).  Find the warmest spot - closest to 70 degrees - you have in your home. We rarely ever reach 70 degrees in our home in winter, but find the warmest place, but do NOT put it directly on or in front of a heat source!  That just causes a skin to form on the dough and it does not help the process of proofing.  Trust me!

The dough is ready when it is dotted with bubbles.  Flour your work surface, dump the dough out of the bowl on to the floured surface; sprinkle with a little more flour and using a dough scraper or your hands, fold it over itself once or twice - no kneading!  Loosely cover the dough with the plastic wrap from the bowl and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle the work surface lightly with flour; using a pastry/dough scraper (now THERE's a versatile kitchen gadget) shape the dough into a ball (you can use your hands a bit, too). It doesn't have to be perfect, but you want a seam side and generally a ball like shape, but you don't want to play with the dough a lot. Put a clean towel on your work surface (not terry cloth), sprinkle with with some flour and place the dough ball on the towel, seam side down.  Sprinkle some more flour on the dough ball and cover with another towel (again, not terry cloth).  Let it rise for 2 hours.

When it is ready it should have increased in size (ideally doubled) and will not spring back when you poke it with your finger.

At least 30 minutes before the rising time is up, preheat your over to 450 degrees and put the pan and lid  that you will be baking the bread in into the oven.  Use cast iron, pyrex or ceramic. As mentioned I use a cast iron mussel pan.  A Dutch oven will work beautifully as well.

When the dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven, and dump the dough from the towel into the pot seam side up.  It will look like a mess but just shake the pan - using your oven mitts of course - and it will settle in nicely.

Cover the pot with the lid and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and bake until the loaf of bread is browned - about 15 - 30 minutes - in my experience generally around 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pot and let it cool on a wire rack.  Sharpen your bread knife.  This bread has a fantastic crust.  Enjoy.

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