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Carb Heaven

April 18, 2012

I was recently told that cheese is addictive. Upon further research, I discovered that scientists have even called it “dairy crack.”  (I decided at this point to stop doing research because no information could top that.)  When I was told this, however, my first reaction was, “Wait, is bread too? Because that would explain a lot.”

And it would.

Since I was five years old, I would go with my mother to the grocery store every week.  I would do this for two reasons:

1. I got a York Peppermint Patty when we checked out (SCORE!)
2. The bread aisle smelled like heaven and rainbows and fireworks all bundled into one

I would stand in that aisle for ten to twenty minutes at a time, ostensibly considering the virtues of high-protein vitamin-enhanced whole grain bread versus Wonder bread.  In reality I was just breathing it in.  With each sniff, I felt happy and cozy and warm, all at the same time.

It was not unheard of for my mother to come upon me sitting on the floor in this aisle, light-headed from inhaling too much carb-scented joy.

So now in the throes of my recent culinary mania, I decided to bring that heaven just a little closer to my home.

And that is when I met Jim Lahey…

And by met, I mean discovered his recipe for No Knead Bread.

So here’s the deal with this bread. It’s so easy.  It just takes time.

There are only four ingredients: yeast, water, salt, and flour. (A note: I really and truly recommend using King Arthur Bread Flour.  I am not an ingredient snob, but I have seen the consistency of my bread change when I switched from Safeway brand to King Arthur.  Not to be a brand loyalist though, you can use any high protein flour you’d like. The higher the protein, the better the consistency of your bread.)

You start by mixing them together until they form a shaggy sticky mess of dough.

Then you let it sit.

For ever.

The recipe says 12 hours. I instead waited 18-24 hours, and it always created better bread for me than the 12 hour rise.

After 12 (or 18 or 24) hours, place your dough on a floured surface.  Gently fold it once or twice. Then you let it rise again for 15 minutes.

While it’s rising, find a towel and cover it with flour. COVER IT. You don’t want your dough getting stuck so I recommend using a lot.   If you want, you can do a layer of flour and a layer of corn meal on the towel.

Take your dough, pull it’s ends together on one side. That way the other side should form a nice ball.

Then plunk the dough ball, seam side down, on your towel.

Then wrap the dough up in it’s towel bed, and let it rise again for two hours.

While your dough is finishing its rise,  take your pot/dutch oven/etc. and place it in your oven at 350 degrees. Let it warm up in there for at least thirty minutes.

After two hours, it should look like this!

Once your dough is risen and your pot it hot, transfer the dough carefully to the pot. You want the seam up.

Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. Then remove the lid and bake for 15-30 minutes with the lid off, until the crust is golden and your apartment smells like heaven.

Then remove and enjoy. You could also wait for it to cool down. I don’t have patience for that…

Now you may be thinking to yourself, but where is the flavor? I don’t understand? Plain white bread… come on.

This bread can easily be jazzed up with any flavors you so desire. Just add the herbs and cheeses you want when you mix the dough ingredients in the beginning. Then follow all of your normal steps.

Here’s an example I tried. For a good Italian-seasoned loaf, just add:

1-2  tbsp. garlic, finely chopped (this flavor cooks down so don’t worry about too much garlic)
1 tbsp. rosemary
1 tbsp. oregano

So bring some heaven to  your home and get baking….

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