Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bread for the Challenged

I love bread. It's serious folks, I bake some form of bread almost every day. Yesterday it was tortillas, today was homemade crust for our cheese pizza at lunch, Monday I made a loaf of the hearth bread you see in the photograph. This weekend it was two loaves of braided Oatmeal Sunflower Bread for a family get-together. I am blessed to own a wonderful bread mixer that I love but with the time constraints of homeschooling and keeping up with the brood, I was looking for a faster and easier option for my baking fixation.
Enter the no-knead bread method. This had been all over the internet but I just recently picked up the book at our library. If you are a cookbook reading nerd you will enjoy reading through his introduction and the descriptions of each recipe. If you are a bread snob like myself you will love the final product of his recipes. What I can't get over is how easy and quick it is to make fabulous bread following his methods. My only problem is that it makes one loaf. My family is ravenous and one loaf doesn't last too long. But I guess that's a good problem to have.
To make the loaf in the photograph I mixed 1 and 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour with 2 cups of white flour, 1 teaspoon of yeast, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of salt and about 1 and 1/2 cup of water. It takes just enough water to make the dough come together, it will be sticky but that's okay. I stirred it together right before I went to bed, popped a lid on the bowl and left it on the counter. That's all! No kneading, watching or punching down. Nothing. The next morning, I turned the dough out onto the countertop after I sprinkled it with some flour and quickly shaped it into a ball. Then I dusted a cloth napkin heavily with flour and set the ball of dough, smooth side up on the napkin and let it rest. The dough is quite sticky so you have to work quickly but it isn't critical to get it smooth or perfect, just rounded up. After about an hour I put my cast iron pot with a lid into the oven while it heated to 450 degrees. About 45 minutes later I took the lid off the pan and tipped the risen loaf off of the napkin and into the pan. This is a bit nerve-wracking for recovering perfectionists but it will rise in the pan while it's baking and that seems to take care of any mess-ups in the dough transfer. The bread baked for 15 minutes with the lid on and 25 minutes with the lid off. Then all there is to it is to cool on a rack.
This recipe works great for pizza dough if you increase the yeast to 2 teaspoons and let it rest in the bowl for about 2 hours. I mix it up before we start school to make pizza for lunch. It just can't get any easier than that.
I hope you try it out and look for the book, he has so many other recipes that I didn't try out, not yet anyway!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Year of Pie: August is Fresh Peach Pie

Everything has been wild and crazy around here. So much of my time since the baby's birth has been spent adjusting and just staying afloat. It is however peach season, my favorite season of all. I wait all year for August, the divine month of perfectly ripe Arkansas peaches. While I was waiting to pay for my bushel of Red Haven's, tears came to my eyes. It's pretty serious, folks, peaches and I go way back. On Sunday I chopped some up for preserves, set some aside to eat fresh and then sliced the remainder up for our August edition of A Year of Pie. Perfection!

You don't need a recipe for Fresh Peach Pie. Just peaches. Oh and pie crust would be nice too. Above you can see the sliced peaches tossed with about 1/2 cup of brown sugar, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Let it sit while you work on the crust.

When you get the bottom crust in the pie plate, fill it with your luscious peaches and dot with butter. Wet the rim of the bottom crust and gently lay the top crust on it and fold the edges under.

Crimp the edges, brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sugar, be sure to cut some slits in the crust for steam to escape. Put it in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling out of the slits. Set your beautiful creation on a rack to cool as long as you can stand to wait and then serve that baby up!