Category Archives: Bread

The Easiest No Knead Bread Recipe Ever

I’ve been a little quiet these last four weeks, due to recent holiday travels to the States which typically saw a serious decline in all productivity (the evidence is in the nearly 1000 photos I took while there). On the plus side, it saw a huge upswing in QFT (Quality Family Time) and gave me the chance to binge on baking as I knew I’d have plenty of willing recipients to devour my creations!

One of my staple bakes is the infamous no knead bread. I have been making this loaf for years and it is the bread I bake most (see Easiest No Knead Bread with Variations). There are two reasons for this: (1) it’s the easiest bread recipe in the world and (2) it is the bread that always gets the most positive reviews (which makes me wonder why I slave over sourdough, but that’s a topic for another time and place).

The no knead bread recipe is based on this recipe from the New York Times. And it really is a loaf that ANYONE can make – mix the dough, let it rest for ages, shape it, then bake it. The only tricky part is that it requires a dutch oven or cast iron pot, and involves transferring the risen dough into the hot pot after it’s pre-heated in the oven. This step is easy to overcome, but still, as much as I’ve tried to convince the people who love this loaf that YES THEY CAN bake it themselves, few give it a go. I guess buying a loaf is still just that much easier – and far less scary. Until now!

No knead bread just got way easier. Lazy approach wins. Baked this one 36 hours after mixing the dough in a bread tin (no proving).

While I was in Chicago, having fun and neglecting this blog, I was also often neglecting my dough! I’d mix the dough with the best intentions but then something would come up and take me out of the kitchen for hours or days. The original no knead bread recipe says to let the dough rise 12-18 hours, but there were times when I’d let the dough rise for 36-48 hours. Gasp!

There were other times when I didn’t have a lidded pot to cook it in. Surely I was cruisin’ for disaster.

And yet, every loaf turned out just fine. In fact, better than fine. The bread – and in turn, the toast – became legendary!

Dad, Monica, Bread

This was the trip where I learned just how forgiving the no knead recipe is. Not only can you let the dough sit for days, but you can also bake the loaf in a normal bread pan without a lid and still get stellar results (see the recipe below).

I did this a LOT while my relatives from Ohio were in town. Toast was high on the breakfast agenda, and my family quickly soon started referring to me as the “toast fairy” because their kids would wake up and there the bread would be, magically waiting for them with butter and jam (what can I say, I’ve had a lot of practise with Airbnb). This was almost as magical as the view outside (prime toast-eating weather):

Snow Globe -esque

Throughout their stay, the “toast fairy” theme took on a life of its own – we schemed ideas for cafes and childrens books and animated movies. After all, who in the world isn’t comforted by a slice of toast? Consequentially, this is not a new discovery – San Francisco is already hip to the artisan toast trend (as written in this highly moving article in the Pacific Standard about where it began); it’s only a matter of time before the toast trend hits London. Which makes me wonder, being the “toast fairy”, if I’ve stumbled upon my true calling?

Toast Fairy Apron from Melissa and Jim

(I big pile of thanks to Jim and Melissa for the apron! If only toast travelled well, I’d send you a thank you slice from here to Ohio!)

Now here is that recipe I promised. People who fear baking bread, I implore you to try this! You can and will succeed!

5.0 from 1 reviews

The Easiest No Knead Bread Recipe Ever
Recipe type: Bread
 

This is a simplified version of Jim Lahey’s no knead bread recipe. This recipe is for people who don’t have a lidded pot to bake in, or who are intimidated by some of the steps in Lahey’s method. When you’re ready to take things to the next level, check out my previous post on no knead bread with variations – the seeded crust variation is my favourite.
Ingredients
  • 3 cups (470g) all-purpose or bread flour
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1.25 teaspoons (10g) salt
  • a little milk
  • sesame and poppy seeds (optional)

Instructions
  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1⅝ cups (350g) water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature. I’ve left the dough for as much as 36-48 hours and it works just fine!
  2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface (or a big plate or cutting board). Wet your hand and use it to pull the dough out of the bough and onto the work surface. Fold the dough into thirds (as if you were folding a letter), then rotate the dough and fold it into thirds again.
  3. Lightly grease a bread pan. Place the dough into the pan with the folded seam up. Brush a little milk or water onto the loaf and sprinkle with sesame and poppy seeds. Let the dough rest 60-120 minutes (you don’t HAVE to do this but it can help – definitely don’t let it rest more than 2 hours).
  4. Preheat the oven to 500 F / 260 C (or as hot as the oven will go). Put the bread in the oven. After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 400 F / 200 C. Check the loaf and make sure it’s not getting too dark – if it is, cover it with some foil. Bake for another 15 minutes.
  5. Cool the loaf on a wire rack.

 

Free Form Bread with Seeded White Flour

Seeded White Loaf

I’ve written about this recipe before (see Malted Grain Loaf: best loaf ever?) but thought it was worth another moment in the spotlight after a recent success adapting it to use Shipton Mill’s new Seeded White Flour.

I made this bread for my Airbnb guests last weekend, who arrived just as the bread was coming out of the oven (my most recent prototypical Country Living moment). I served this bread as part of my Airbnb “complimentary help-yourself breakfast”, along with butter, jam, muesli, milk, fresh fruit, coffee and tea.

I am always fascinated by what my guests choose to eat for breakfast, and for these folks, breakfast seemed to consist of nearly an entire loaf of bread, Keens cheddar and marrow chutney. And they had the same breakfast for the remainder of their three-night stay. I needed to make more bread!

Malted Grain Loaf

What I love about this recipe is that it works really well for free-form loaves (vs tin loaves). It is also a yeasted bread so I can make a loaf within a few hours, making it a good contender for morning baking and lunchtime eating.

This particular recipe seems well suited for heartier flours (the original uses malted grain flour, and the Shipton Mill’s seeded white flour is full of, well, seeds – sunflower, linseed, millet, poppy and pumpkin seeds). The dough is denser than the no knead bread I’m used to, but I suppose that’s why it works for free form baking.

I’d like to try this recipe with pure white or pure wholemeal flour and see if I have the same success. This will no doubt require adjusting the recipe somewhat to adapt to the different hydration levels that such flours require – such are the lessons in baking. And speaking of bread baking lessons, I think the basic one is this: most bread recipes are basically the same, it’s just a matter of adjusting the flour and water ratio to get a dough that “feels right”. And the only way to learn that is through practice. Time to make more bread…

5.0 from 1 reviews

Free Form Multigrain Bread
Recipe type: Bread
 

Adapted from the River Cottage’s malted grain loaf recipe.
Ingredients
  • 500g multigrain flour (such as malted bread flour or Shipton Mill’s seeded white flour)
  • 5g dried yeast
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 300ml warm water
  • About 1 tbsp melted butter, or rapeseed or olive oil (I used olive oil)
  • Rye flour, for coating (optional)

Instructions
  1. Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and mix to a rough dough (I recommend using your hands). Add the butter or oil and mix well. Adjust the consistency if you need to with a little more flour or water to make a soft, easily kneadable, sticky dough.
  2. Turn the dough out on to a work surface and knead until smooth and satiny – roughly 10 minutes (or if you have a blender with a dough hook, use that). Cover the bowl with cling film and leave until doubled in size – anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, possibly even longer depending on the temperature of your kitchen. When it’s ready it should look like this:
  3. Deflate (‘knock back’) the dough by tipping it on to the work surface and pressing all over with your fingertips. Then shape the dough into a loaf, dusting it with a little rye flour if you have some. Transfer to a well-floured board, linen cloth or proving basket, lay a plastic bag over it and leave to prove, until almost doubled in size again.
  4. Preheat the oven to 250°C/Gas Mark 9 (or at least 220°C/gas 7, if that’s your top limit), then put a pizza stone or baking tray in to heat up. Have ready, if possible, a clean gardener’s spray bottle full of water – you’ll be using this to create a steamy atmosphere in the oven, which helps the bread to rise and develop a good crust. (You can achieve the same effect with a roasting tin of boiling water placed on the bottom of the oven just before you put the loaf in – but the spray bottle is easier.)
  5. Transfer the loaf to the hot tray, removed from the oven. Slash the top, if you wish, with a serrated knife. Put the loaf into the hot oven and give a few squirts from the spray bottle over and around it before closing the door as quickly as you can.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200°C/gas 6 and continue baking until well browned and hollow-sounding when tapped – around 30 minutes.
  7. Leave to cool completely on a rack before slicing.

 

 

Baking with Nimo: Assyrian “Eight Day” Bread

"Eight day bread"

Last January my mother introduced me to her friend, Nimo, an Assyrian woman who’s managed that rare thing in America: to migrate to the states without losing her cultural food tradition. My mom’s been raving to me about Nimo for years, often sending me photos and scribbles from their cooking sessions, making such things as tabbouleh, lentil dumplings, Turkish bread, and stuffed aubergine. Given my propensity for Middle Eastern cuisine, it was no wonder why I “had to meet this woman”.

Making "eight day bread

Assyria is an ancient territory that dissolved in the mid-seventh century and is now part of several nations including northern Iraq, part of southeast Turkey and northeast Syria. Though Nimo now lives in Chicago, her roots are firmly in her heritage, and this especially applies to her cooking. Nimo bakes from her tradition, using the recipes that her grandmother taught her how to make, rarely measuring anything and often not knowing the English words to describe them, which made follow-up research a tad challenging, but also hugely educational.

One such dish that Nimo taught us is what she called “eight day bread”, a sweet, egg-enriched braided bread that is eaten across the countries of the former Ottoman empire and in Greece and Armenia has specific associations with Easter. In Armenia it’s called “choereg” and in Greece it’s called ”tsoureki” or “lampropsomo”, derived from the Greek words for “Easter” and “bread” and refers to the light Christians believe is given by Christ’s resurrection.

Rolling dough for the sweet bread

There are many varieties of these festive breads, but what gives it its distinctive flavour and aroma is mahleb, an aromatic spice made from the seeds of a type of cherry. When ground to a powder, mahleb produces a flavour that’s much like a combination of bitter almond and cherry. The spice has several associations with Easter, not only in Greece, but also in Cyprus where it’s a used in a special Easter cheese-filled pastry called flaouna.

Mahlab

I’m still trying to navigate the landscape of Nimo’s food stories. Her food crosses several cultural landscapes and her methods are not recipes, but simple truths about cooking ingrained in her brain by tradition and repetition. The worktop must be clean. The ingredients must be good. The cooking must be done with care and respect. And the food must be enjoyed slowly and mindfully.

As to “eight day bread”, “Choereg”, “Tsoureki”, or whatever you wish to call it, I enjoy it best sliced and toasted with butter, during Easter time, or any time of the year.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Baking with Nimo: Assyrian “Eight Day” Bread
 

Ingredients
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2¼ teaspoons yeast
  • ½ teaspoon mahleb, ground seeds
  • 1 egg yolk
  • sesame seeds or sliced almond, for topping (optional)

Instructions
  1. Dissolve yeast in warm milk, then add the sugar and melted butter.
  2. Beat the eggs eggs and add to the milk mixture, along with salt and ground mahleb.
  3. Add flour gradually, one cup at a time until dough comes away from sides of bowl. Knead 10 minutes until soft, shiny and no longer sticky.
  4. Place dough in oiled bowl. Turn the dough ball in the bowl to coat the outside with oil. Cover the bowl and put in a warm place to rise until doubled.
  5. Divide the dough into two or three balls. Divide each ball into three and roll out with your hands to three long ropes.
  6. Pinch all three ends together and braid loosely. Pinch ends and tuck under.
  7. Cover and allow to rise again until doubled.
  8. Preheat the oven to 400 F / 200 C. Brush the braids with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds or sliced almonds.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes or until nicely golden brown all over.

 

This post first appeared on Great British Chefs blog.

Multigrain Bread

Multigrain bread

I haven’t been baking very much bread lately, partly because I already have a freezer full of bread, and also because I’ve been carbing it up on all the winter root veg I’ve been getting in my organic box. In truth, I feel better when I’m not eating so much bread. I don’t think it’s a gluten thing, I think it’s a self control thing: when good bread is around, I tend to eat lots of it.

The trouble is, I miss baking. And last week, I really felt like I needed to bake. More than that, I needed to Comfort Bake. I got the idea in my head that I wanted multigrain bread, and of all people, Martha Stewart came to the rescue with her Multigrain Bread recipe which ticked all the right boxes: rye flour, oats, flax seeds, sunflower seeds.

The only substitution I made was to use quinoa rather than bulgur wheat. I could definitely smell and taste the quinoa in the resulting loaf, but I loved it. I also didn’t need as much flour as the recipe called for (I had about a cup leftover), which may be partially due to quinoa not holding as much water as bulgur. This picture makes the crumb look a little, well, crumbly, but I think that’s due to my slicing the bread before it was totally cool.

I loved this bread and will certainly be making it again – with the quinoa. That is, once I get through my freezer stash.

Recipe: Multigrain Bread

Turkish Style Flatbreads

Turkish Style Flatbread

My bread mojo has been lacking lately. I feel like I’ve had a long string of loaves that are too flat, flatbread that is too dry, lacklustre sourdough starter and cardboard-esque pizza bases. It has me feeling a little ho-hum about bread, while desperately craving something great.

I decided to try two things: first, a new recipe. I opted for the Turkish flatbread from the River Cottage Bread Handbook. The second thing I tried was following the recipe exactly – no cutting corners, no experimenting with different flours. Instead, I paid attention to what I was doing and put my faith in the recipe. It didn’t let me down.

The dough includes yogurt and olive oil to create a soft pillowy flatbread. The dough wasn’t as wet as what I’m used to, but I resisted the urge to add (very much) extra water and let it do it’s thing. It rose as it should, and it was very easy to roll.

Making flatbread

Making flatbread

I love flatbread because you can roll the dough into whatever size you want – big ol’ flatbreads for sharing with friends, or little mini breads to stack and freeze and keep on hand for whenever you need it. I rolled mine into about 4″ diameter, 3mm thick (do you like how I’m mixing my measurement systems?) and then got on with the baking.

The recipe calls for the rolled-out dough to be baked quickly on a hot skillet, and then finished in the grill. You can imagine my delight as I saw the dough puff and rise on the stovetop.

Making flatbread

What you don’t see, however, is the bread rapidly burning underneath! Lesson learned: these flatbread bake VERY quickly, and it’s a little fraught working with the skillet and then the grill. I ended up making most of the flatbreads on the outdoor BBQ because it’s much cleaner, harder to burn and you can make more than one flatbread at once!

Making flatbread

The resulting flatbreads weren’t so “flat” at all, but they were exactly what I was hoping for. I’ve been eating them with gusto with raw kale salads and beetroot and walnut hummus (another River Cottage recipe). Most importantly, however, I feel relieved to have had a baking success. The mojo is returning. Next up, sourdough?

Turkish Style Flatbread

Turkish Style Flatbreads
 

Ingredients
  • 500g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 10g powdered dried yeast
  • 20g fine salt
  • 325ml warm water
  • 325ml natural yoghurt, warmed
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil, plus extra for coating

Instructions
  1. Mix the flours, yeast, salt, water and yoghurt in a bowl to form a sticky dough. If it seems really dry, and you’re having trouble working all the flour into the dough, add more water, a little bit at a time. Add the oil, mix it in. Knead until smooth and silky (either by hand or with a machine – I use a mixer with a dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes).
  2. Shape the dough into a round, then place in a clean bowl. Leave to rise, covered with a plastic bag, until doubled in size.
  3. Deflate the dough, then if you have time, leave to rise a second, third, even a fourth time (this improves the dough but is by no means essential).
  4. Tear off pieces the size of small lemons (or smaller, or larger, if you like) one at a time, shape into a round, then using plenty of flour, roll out to a 3-4mm thickness and leave to rest for 5 minutes or so.
  5. To bake on the stove / grill: Heat a large heavy based frying pan over the highest heat and set the grill to maximum. When the pan is super-hot, lay the first bread in it. After a minute or possibly less the bread should be puffy and starting to char on the bottom. Slide the pan under the hot grill, a good 15cm from the heat, and watch your creation balloon magnificently. Remove the bread when it starts to char on the top, brush on some olive oil, then server.
  6. To bake on a BBQ: Make sure the BBQ is good and hot. Lay the rolled out dough directly on the BBQ. You’ll see it start to bubble and puff. When it starts to char, flip it over and cook until it starts to char on the other side, too. Remove, brush on some olive oil and serve.

The Art of Chapattis

Chapatti on the grill

I’ve been making chapatti for a while now, but with only average results. My chapatti are often too dry, without that nice foldable quality you get in restaurant chapatti. They also seem to acquire a shell of “flour”, inherited from the rolling process, making them almost stale by design. But today I had a major chapatti breakthrough that I wanted to share.

These chapatti were a total case of “who you know”: they wouldn’t have come together if it weren’t for input from a few key players.

At the top level there was The Essential Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, whose chapatti recipe I used for the basic ingredient proportions, kneading and cooking techniques. But as all bread bakers know, even the best recipes are hard pressed to convey the subtleties of the cooking process. This is where I’m grateful for the experience of a few baker friends I know.

First, Toddy Peters told me a thing or two about chapatti flour and how to work with it. First of all, not all chapatti flour (aka “atta”) is made equal. There are whiter varieties, and “cheaper versions that are more wholemeal and therefore going to produce a coarser, thicker bread”. I’ve been using straight up Shipton Mill wholemeal flour, the same I usually use for wholemeal bread, which is indeed rather coarse. So today I decided to lighten it up a bit by sifting the wholemeal flour, and adding the same amount of white spelt flour.

Chapatti dough ready for a good rest

Toddy also told me: “when rolling out, I have a small plate or thali of flour and I never flour the rolling surface, and I dip the ball in the plate of flour, but also shake off excess.” Now I see why my chapatti of yore were always so floury – I went waaay overboard on flouring my work surface. Toddy’s tip basically solved that problem.

Once rolled, there was the question of cooking chapatti. Ms. Jaffrey recommends a tava, which I totally don’t have. And further, I don’t really trust my electric hob to do the job. Fortunately, Trevor from Hobbs House Bakery offered a hefty tip at last week’s Foodie Bugle Lectures: Use the grill. For home bakers, the grill is really the only way to get a high enough heat for successful chapatti, pittas and flatbread. And happily, it’s spring and perfect weather for cooking outdoors.

One last thing: I also added a few ajwain seeds to the dough, courtesy of The Botanical Baker, Urvashi Roe, who gave me some during our epic foodie weekend to add to my chickpea pancakes. Don’t know why but I felt compelled to try them in chapatti – loved it!

So here’s how it went down:

  • 60g white spelt flour (Dove’s Farm)
  • 60g wholemeal flour, sifted (Shipton Mill)
  • 90g water (from the tap)
  • small pinch of ajwan seeds (thanks Urvashi)

I started with the 90g water and 90g flour, adding more flour until I had a soft, kneadable dough (so, just beyond the realm of “sticky”). I kneaded the dough for five(ish) minutes then let it rest for an hour or so while I attempted to be productive.

I then divided the dough into 8 little balls (using my hands to pull the dough apart and then shape them into cute little compact balls).

I dipped each dough ball in flour and then rolled them out into a thin round (I had to add a bit of flour as I went to prevent sticking).

I heated up the outdoor gas grill on high. My gas grill has two sides – one open to the flame, the other not (you can sort of see this in the picture up top).

To make the chapatti, I first put the chapatti on the non-flame side and cooked for about a minute on each side, so that little brown spots started to form. Then I moved the chapatti to the flame side for about 30 seconds, where they really began to puff (I got this no flame / flame idea from the Madhur Jaffrey cookbook – though I reckon you’d do just fine with or without the flame, or even in the grill of an electric oven).

The chapatti made for a seriously happy-making lunch of yellow pea dahl and spinach with pickles and chutney.

Very much a happy making lunch: @vegcs yellow pea dal and a big stack of fresh chapatti.

I’m sure I have more to learn about chapatti and I’m open to any ideas or suggestions from you chapatti experts out there. I’ll probably experiment with other flour types and combinations in the future. But today’s effort made me really happy. They were soft, pliable, and extremely tasty! I loved the occasional hit of ajwain seed. And they are happily foldable, so don’t be surprised to find them doubling as tortillas in my breakfast tacos and fajitas.

Related reading: Mark Bittman’s Recipe and Video for Grilled Chapattis in The New York Times.