My baking project for this weekend was no-knead cheese bread from Jim Lahey’s My Bread cookbook. This is basically the no-knead bread recipe with chunks of any firm or semi-firm cheese mixed into the dough. I used asiago cheese.
The no-knead process takes a long time, but most of that time is allowing the dough to rise on the kitchen counter. Not a lot of work is required, which is just the way I like it. For the second rise, you must wrap the dough in a dish towel generously dusted with flour, cornmeal or bran. I learned this time that it is not a bright idea to use a terrycloth towel. The sticky dough really adheres to all those little threads, and it’s hard to flip it into the preheated dutch oven for baking. It seems obvious now, but not when I pulled the towel out of the pile in the closet. Anyway, it is a good practice to note and learn from one’s mistakes.
Regardless, once the bread got into the oven and started baking, something primal started happening in my kitchen. The odor of the baking bread and melting cheese — words can’t do it justice, but within minutes I was salivating and ready to tear that loaf apart with my bare hands and bury my face in it. I did manage to restrain myself long enough to let the loaf finish baking and cool down, but it was hard, I tell you. What was also hard was getting the loaf out of super-hot dutch oven and onto the wire rack to cool, as the melted cheese had leaked out and acted as an adhesive, but with the help of a spatula and knife, I managed the feat.
Once the bread cooled enough to touch, I cut off a couple of pieces and dug in. This bread is officially one of my favorite breads. It combines the two things I love most in the world. It’s like a grilled cheese sandwich baked into a loaf of bread. Fan-freaking-tastic. Make this as soon as you are able.
Here’s a nice post on Macheesmo that includes the full recipe.
For a blossoming baker, Jim Lahey’s My Bread was probably the best investment I could have made. Besides his famous no-knead bread recipe, Lahey provides many variations on that same theme, giving lots of creative ideas for making bread with a minimum of effort, most illustrated by an ample number of photographs.
A certain baker in our family told me this week that he didn’t think it was possible to make “real” yeast bread without kneading. But I know myself. I was trepidatious about making bread anyway, and if I had to do a lot of kneading, I probably wouldn’t do it at all. If it’s a choice between no bread and no-knead bread, I’ll take the no-knead bread, thank you very much.
Yesterday I made stecca, which are the no-knead version of giant breadsticks. They are quite irresistible for snacking.
- Ummm, Homemade Bread (simplycooking.wordpress.com)
- No-knead Bread and Tortilla Soup (simplycooking.wordpress.com)
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Yesterday I made chicken tortilla soup in the slow cooker. For a change of pace, I threw in some of the collards and kale I had on hand, even though it wasn’t called for in the recipe. I find that if I can get the vegetables into the main dish, we tend to eat more of them than if I make them as a side dish. My husband liked the soup enough to take this photo of it.
I also made the famous no-knead bread using the recipe in Jim Lahey’s My Bread. Actually, this bread takes 2 days to make, if you account for the rising time, but it is essentially a hands-off recipe (hence the “no-knead” in the title). The most difficult part, I found, was transferring the extremely sticky dough to the tea towel for the second rise and then into the preheated dutch oven. The bread is very flavorful, dense, chewy and slightly sour. It’s true what they say: Homemade bread does taste better than anything you can buy at the store.
This recipe is easy enough to give me the confidence to try more breads. My Bread provides several variations on the basic recipe. One of my cooking goals right now is to bake more of my own bread, and I’m sure this book will be a big help.
Here is Mark Bittman’s original recipe for Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, if you want to try to make it yourself.