Recipe first, because I don’t want to be one of those blogs that makes you wade through my life story (which you are all enraptured by and will read anyway, right?) before getting to the recipe.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon or so yeast (active? The kind in the jar. Or I guess one envelope or so.)
- A bunch* of dried minced onion
- A bunch of dried minced garlic
- A bunch of poppy seeds
- 1-2 cups warm water (Can you hold your finger in it comfortably? Then you’re good. If you burn yourself, it’s too hot. Probably if it’s steaming you can assume it’s too hot. Don’t put your finger in that.) The water required varies due to humidity and the basic weirdness of the world and if you carefully leveled your flour when you measured or if you just sort of chucked it in. E,.g,., I live in the desert and so my flour is already drier than your flour. I miss humidity. Also e.g. I do not level when I measure flour, I just sort of shake the cup and hope for the best. Some are heaping, some have divots. It evens out.
- A little more flour for dusting, and a little more water for baking
- Oh also if you’re putting topping on it you need an egg, and more minced onion, minced garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and chunky salt like kosher or sea salt.
*When I say a bunch, I mean I do not measure things generally. I shake the container into the bowl until I think it looks like the amount I want. This is what the phrase “to taste” was invented for. In this case it’s probably pushing a tablespoon.
- Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. It’s going to rise in here, so make sure it’s got room to double. I think the bowl I usually use is 2 quarts? The largest of my Pyrex bowls definitely works. Stir to combine and decide if maybe you want to add more onion/garlic/poppy seeds. If the distribution looks goods, then yay. If not, add more.
- Add the water, starting with about a cup. You want the dough to be on the wet side. Stir and add water until the dough comes together and doesn’t have dry bits.
- Once it’s all mixed, cover with plastic wrap and put it somewhere reasonably warm, but not hot. Let it rise for about 2 hours, or until it’s doubled. If you forget and it goes longer, that’s fine.
- When it’s doubled, you have two options. You can throw it in the fridge and bake it later, or you can flour your counter fairly well and turn the dough out onto the counter. Turn it over on itself a couple of times and shape it as best you can, then plop it on a baking sheet lined with either parchment or a silpat. (Note: We got a two pack of the Amazon basics silpats for like 16 dollars and I love them and I am so happy we got them, especially since a roll of parchment here is like 8 bucks. The Amazon ones are rated up to 480 degrees, so get whatever ones you want, but double check how hot they go up to.) Throw a clean dishtowel (like a smooth floursack style one, nothing linty or that is going to stick to the dough) over it and let it rise another half hour.
Two things will make your life easier here: First is a dough scraper, which is a slightly flexible, rounded bit of plastic or silicone that is super helpful at getting all of the sticky dough out of the bowl. You can buy one, or you can take the lid from a container (I used the lid from an empty blue cheese container) and cut it to the size/shape you want. It is super handy. Also, a bench scraper, which is just a 6 inch or so long, straight bit of (usually) metal with a handle. Once you’ve got the dough on the counter (aka bench), the bench scraper makes moving and handling it a lot easier. Plus, when you’re done, it works great for scraping the flour off the edge of the counter into your dirty bowl. Anything that makes clean-up easier is excellent.
- Preheat your oven to eh… 425, 450. I think my oven runs a little hot, so I do 425, but when I have done it at 450 it hasn’t been the end of the world, the topping just gets a little too charred for my taste. Also, on the bottom rack in the oven put a muffin tin, cake pan, or cast iron skillet. You’re going to be adding water to it when you put your bread in and it works better if it’s preheated.
- OPTIONAL TOPPING INSTRUCTIONS Okay, I love everything bagels, so this bit is generally not optional around here. Beat an egg with a little water and put egg wash on the top of your bread. I kept an empty jar from some spice or other, the kind with the shaker top, and keep my topping mix in it for easy sprinkling. I do equalish amounts of dried minced onion, dried minced garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and grey sea salt (because I’m fancy). If you want extra garlic power, add some garlic powder. If you can find them, black sesame seeds would be a good addition, but out here it’s a miracle I can find poppy seeds, so do what you can. Coat bread with topping to the extent that makes you happy. Even if you don’t want the stuff on top, just an egg wash will give you a pretty crust.
- Add a half cup or so of water to your water container in the oven. Careful, it will hiss and steam at you right away. The more water you add, the chewier the crust you end up with. Professor Furious was in charge of that bit once and added a full cup, and the bread was still tasty, but also very soft.
- Bake about a half hour. It will give you the good hollow noise when you tap on it when it’s done.
- Let it cool before you cut into it. I know, it’s hard to resist. But you can do it. Be strong. It’s especially tasty with cream cheese on it.
Okay, now the bloggy bit:
I came late to the no knead trend, but whatever, I’m here now. Actually, I’ve been fussing with it for a while, but you know me and getting around to posting things. It started with the standard cook in a dutch oven loaf. And… eh? It was good, but the bottom over browned. Possibly due tot he fact that we don’t have a fancy Le Creuset enameled dutch oven, but good ol’ black-as-my-soul belonged-to-my-grandma regular cast iron. It’s great, but I think it’s a little too good at holding heat in this case. Plus, I always have to be difficult. Plus, what I was wanting to imitate is closer to the ciabatta loaves I spend entirely too much money on. But then I got frustrated that the store was once again out of the (overpriced) everything bagel chips, and also they don’t carry everything bagels, so I read a bunch of blogs and tinkered.
Most recipes you’re going to see for similarly named breads have you just do the topping. Yeah, that was not enough for me. I started with putting the poppy seeds and sesame seeds into the dough. You’ll note that I don’t do the sesame seeds inside now. They don’t do enough for me flavor-wise, and sesame seeds are at their best when they’re toasty. Putting them into the dough is the opposite of toasty. The garlic and onion, though, rehydrate a bit during the rise, and give off some excellent flavor, but don’t mess with the texture.
As for my “measurements”… I know. It drives Professor Furious crazy, too. He bought a kitchen scale and everything. I used it the first time I made bread. That was also the last time I used it. I don’t know if it’s the scale itself or what, but instead of helpful it was frustrating. Baking shouldn’t be frustrating, it should be relaxing. So I scoop things and don’t level them, and know what “enough” garlic or whatever looks like. If the dough seems dry, I add water. If it seems wet, I add flour. It’s hard to really, truly screw it up. (Which okay, I have managed. We’re not going to talk about the cheese bread that never baked. At least not today.) Mostly it works for me. And that’s good enough.