Tuesday, April 10, 2012


If I had known how easy it was to bake bread, I would have started to do it years ago. But you know how it is sometimes? You have it worked up in your head that something is so scary and then you finally do it and you think, "Huh.  Well that wasn't so bad."

So today I overcame my fear of bread.  And so can you.

I followed Mark Bittman's "Jim Lahey's No-Work Bread" from How to Cook Everything.  I picked this recipe because of the key phrase, "No-Work".  Obviously.  True to his word, this bread was not a lot of work.  But I will tell you, I did do a little bit of freaking out -- "Is this what it's supposed to look like?  What is the temperature in here?  Is it too cold?  Am I supposed to smoosh out all of those bubbles?  What if it turns out rock hard?  Then how am I supposed to fix it for next time??"

Well, as the kitchen gods would have it, the bread turned out perfectly. I mean, I don't mean to give myself too much of an ego boost here, but dang!  Did you see the picture?

Now you try:

Fancy Restaurant Bread
(adapted from Mark Bittman)

4 c. All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. (scant) Yeast
2 tsp. Salt
2 c. Water (room temperature - 70 degrees-ish)
Glug of Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. Cornmeal

Combine flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of your KitchenAid Mixer (or just a bowl is fine).  Attach the dough hook and let it start swooshing on low speed.  Slowly add the water until everything is blended.   It'll be sticky.

Generously coat a large bowl with the olive oil and transfer your dough hunk into the new bowl.  Cover it with plastic wrap and let it hang out in your home for 18 hours.  Yep, that's right - 18.

When you see the surface dotted with bubbles, the dough is ready.  Flour your countertop and flip the dough onto the floured surface. Flip it around a few times to get the outside coated with flour, then cover it again and let it stand for 15 minutes.

Now you're ready for the big time.  Form that dough into a ball and coat a flour sack cloth with the cornmeal.  Move that dough ball to the center of the towel, and sprinkle the top of the ball with more flour.  Fold the towel's edges over the top of your dough ball, then let it sit for just 2 more hours.  (Then I swear you get to the good part where it starts to smell yummy.)

After 2 hours, put a dutch oven into your real oven, and turn up the heat to 450.  (Be sure the handle to the lid is heat-safe up to this temperature.)  Once both pieces have reached 450, put the bread in the dutch oven.  Put the lid on.  Put the whole works in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Take the lid off.  Bake it for another 15 minutes.  Or until it looks toasty-lovely.  Take it all out of the oven and admire your work.  Let it rest for a few minutes before cutting into it so your knife can take hold of the crust more easily.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Banana Bread

Oh, BTW: I live in Duluth now.
This is my new baking view.
If you're like me, you've got about 14 different recipes in your cupboard for banana bread - one from Grandma, one from the other grandma, one from your favorite cookbook, one from the Lutheran Ladies Church Recipe Book... etc.  I know that there's one I prefer over all the others, but every time I see borderline rotting bananas on my countertop, I can never remember which one it is.

Well, finally.  I found a recipe I really like, and I saved it on my computer. Not only that, but I saved it as "My Favorite Banana Bread Recipe".  (Amazing it's taken me 31 years to figure things like this out...)

Anyway, this recipe is adapted from one I found in the cookbook, "How it all Vegan".  I made some changes based on my own dietary preferences, and voila!  It's nutty (without actually having nuts) and it has a wonderfully moist texture.  Darn near perfect, really.  And it's sugar-free! (If you can't live without the sugar - or can't get a hold of agave nectar, 1/4 c. agave = 1/2 c. sugar.)

My Favorite Banana Bread Recipe

3 mashed ripe bananas
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1/3 c. walnut oil
1/4 c. agave nectar
1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. ground flax seed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Moosh together the bananas, yogurt, oil, and agave nectar.  In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Stir until blended.  Pour batter into an oiled bread pan and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool.  Eat a piece while it's still warm.