Saturday 28 November.
It is raining continuously here and we are burning logs on the fire so I have decided it is a bread baking day. I am trying one of the no-knead recipes, the type you prove for around 8 to 18 hours. Whilst I am in the mood and basically impatient I will also make focaccia.
For the focaccia I use Carol Field’s The Italian Baker book, an old standby. I was fortunate to meet her a few years ago and discussed with her the methods she used to acquire recipes and the extensive testing she did. Her measurements are so precise and she adds to every recipe, a hand method, a mixer method and a food processor method. I have other bread books but it is hard to go past this one.
The no-knead recipe comes from an American flour company and the links sent to me by Bob MacLennan the Slow Food President in Brisbane, but already I have detected their recipe does not contain enough water for the sloppy and sticky dough they indicate you must achieve for the slow fermentation. So of course I add more water, my pure rainwater of course. Since I love Tasmanian walnuts, I have popped some in with sultanas.
My old Kenwood Chef mixer sailed on the Spirit of Tasmania with me from Queensland and I had a new motor put in before I left, but when I used the kneading hook and left it for 4 minutes to knead the focaccia, a nasty smoky smell couldn’t be ignored. Another problem to resolve later.
Despite following the directions meticulously, my focaccia did not rise as it should have and I ended up with them resembling pizzas. Actually it is my fault as I don’t think my dissolved yeast was quite active enough when I added it to the flour. So in hindsight I should have added just a whisp of sugar to the yeast as that always gets it going. I haven’t made focaccia for so long I forgot my little tricks.
I am using Lowan Wholefoods instant dried yeast for the first time. It comes in a 280g pack so I have enough for hundreds of breadbaking days.
I began the no-knead bread around 8am. For the baking, it went into the oven Saturday night at 9.45pm and came out about 10.30pm. But for the first time using this method, it was nerve racking to bake bread in a covered container. I am not a stranger to putting bread in a cold oven though, I used to do that to bake a Pagnotta loaf but at least I could see it’s progress. Anyway I impatiently removed the lid about 15 minutes early and it was looking good so did as I should and then kept it uncovered for the final browning process.
I removed the bread quite easily of the enamelled cast iron casserole, that was another of my concerns. I brushed the base with olive oil and it just needed a gentle prompting with a flat wide knife to loosen it from the sides.
The crust is not thick and heavy but thin and crisp. The flavour has benefited from my addition of a little organic wholewheat flour and certainly the long proving time helps develop the flavour and texture. I will be making it again. If you are keen, let me know and I will put my recipe into the recipe section of the blog.
The bread has cooled overnight so I cut it in half and gave one side to my neighbour. I had given him the recipe notes last week and he kindly gave me a sample of his experiment. He followed the recipe slavishly and ended up with a flatter bread which he thinks was due to the recipe not containing enough yeast. So we are literally sharing bread… and tips. Roz