Tag Archives: no-knead bread

The Plan

4 Dec

It’s December. Ack!

Lions

Who let that happen without checking with me first? And how did it happen? Wasn’t it just October? Did November slip past without my noticing?

I mean, yes, I did see them putting up the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I saw it with my own eyes. You’d think that would have been a strong hint that the holiday season was approaching. But no, it didn’t register.

Then there’s the Chrazy Chanukah karaoke-fest that my co-worker Jane has planned. Did that get me to acknowledge the inevitable? Oh heck no.

Perhaps it was the restraint that my neighbors showed in putting up their Christmas decorations. The folk here in Bay Ridge are crazy for holidays. They dress their brownstones in the finery of even the most underrepresented holiday. I had mentally predicted that they would be incapable of not decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving, but I was wrong. In fact it was only this past weekend that many of them started gussying things up, and to gorgeous effect, too, might I add.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Christmas doesn’t stress me out. I’ve got a small family, no children, don’t entertain often or get invited to many parties and, if I may say so, am a talented gifter. So the actual holiday is a breeze. What does send me into squeaky, unpleasant Ann-mode however is the end of the year at work and hoo boy, is that coming along real quick.

There’ll be meetings, both of the planning and rah! rah! variety, a few cocktail parties and the part that sends me into spirals of depression, the receiving of bonus checks. There’s something so symbolic to that one white envelope with its crinkly pane of translucent paper. It’s the culmination of 12 months of hard, hard work, late nights, weekends spoiled and tears of frustration cried.

But this year I’m not going to let whatever number is printed there bother me because it’s all part of my master plan. And why am I telling you this? Because the ever eloquent, sweet and thoughtful BlogLily asked me (and many others) to tell her about how we plan. It’s a good time of year to think about this, don’t you agree?

Ice Skating, Bryant Park

I’m not a big planner when it comes to the small stuff. On weekends, I’ll write up an agenda of things I’d like to accomplish, but if they don’t happen, it’s no big deal. This is how I cook, too. I’ll put together a recipe in my head with a list of ingredients and if they all make it into the pot, brava! If they don’t, I ask myself, “Did dinner taste good?” If the answer is yes, I’m happy. If the answer is no, I make a mental note and try not to repeat the mistake the next time.

But a few months ago I decided it was time to work on a big plan, the master plan, the path to a better future (that sounds so communist). I decided it was time to get serious about my career and to make other people serious about it too.

What was my plan? It’s rather mundane really. I set myself goals. Revolutionary, no? But what I feel is even more important, I got a haircut and started dressing better. You know that old chestnut, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” well ladies, I do believe it’s an oldie and a goodie for a reason. People take you more seriously when you dress the part. They’re more willing to have you meet important people, delegate responsibility and offer you chances. And to top it all off, it makes me feel better about myself.

Santa & the Shoppers

So, has it worked? I’m not sure yet, but I have hope. All signs point to good things. And if not? Well, I guess it’s on to Plan B. What Plan B might be though, is anyone’s guess.

There’s one thing for sure that I’m planning though, and that’s working on two new tweaks I’ve developed for another old chestnut, Bittman’s no-knead bread. The first tweak was intentional; I substituted whey for water. It’s a good tweak, if you just happen to have cups and cups of whey in your freezer. It enhances aroma, flavor and color rather nicely.

The second tweak was definitely a mistake that turned out to be (possibly) a revolution. I kneaded the no-knead bread.

Kneaded No-Knead Bread

You see, the starter, or poolish, or sponge or whatever-you-want-to-call-it I made was too wet, but I didn’t want to waste it. So after the first rise, I tipped it out onto my heavily flowered board and gently kneaded flour into the amorphous blob of goo until it resembled the most gorgeous, springy, alive feeling dough I’ve ever handled. Then I tucked it into a ball, placed it in a bowl, let it rise two more hours and baked it.

It’s the loaf I’ve been dreaming about. Fragrant. Beautiful. Tasty. Perfect. Without further testing I can’t tell if it was a fluke or if this is a revolution. Might this new step, kneading the kneadless, be the way for the stand mixerless masses to make perfectly structured loaves of European-quality bread?

Kneaded No-Knead Bread

Only time and testing will tell. But I plan to work on it.

Housekeeping

1 Oct

Over on My New York, I dedicated a post to “The Other Bridge.”

Birds On A Wire

You’ve seen her around these parts a lot lately. She’s a beautiful bridge and is often overshadowed by her more glamorous and famous sister the Brooklyn Bridge.

There’s a few recipes and dishes that I keep meaning to write about that are beginning to feel a bit like the Manhattan Bridge; worthy, beautiful, simple and yet, overlooked. The glamorous dishes and serious cooking have been hogging the spotlight.

Like the two bridges the good story gets all the glory. But, do you know where to get the best view of the Brooklyn Bridge? Why from the middle of the Manhattan Bridge of course!

Dumbo Pebbles

And so, without further ado: A salad, bread & cheese, a juice and dessert.

Michael’s Onions

Michael's Onions

I first tasted these onions at my friend’s poker game a few Fridays ago. Our host had planned to make them on the grill, but due to a series of unforeseen mishaps he ended up cooking them in the oven. They couldn’t be easier, or tastier. Just thickly slice a sweet onion, dot it with a little butter, season with a shake of Lawry’s and then roast in the oven until soft and wiltingly tender. We ate ours with sausages.

Two nights later I just had to make them to top a salad. Equally as good. I don’t keep seasoning salt in the house, so I used various spice mixes my mom has given me over the years and a little salt. They come out so soft and delicious, like the inside of the very best onion rings.

Bread & Cheese

No-Knead Bread

Yep, it’s back. What’s back? No-knead bread season of course! While I conquered my fear of kneading last winter, I’ve been craving Bittman’s magic bread. (As an aside, thank you NY Times for finally removing the asinine Times Select thus allowing home cooks everywhere to access timeless recipes again.) It has a yeasty flavor and magical texture that I haven’t yet been able to capture in my kneaded loaves.

Fromage Blanc & No-Knead Bread

This loaf was 2 cups AP flour plus 1/2 cup white whole wheat and 1/2 cup extra fine semolina. I love the flavor and texture the semolina added, a slight nuttiness, a little extra browning on the bottom and a gorgeous crust on top. We christened autumn’s first loaf with homemade fromage blanc flavored with herbes de Provence.

Fromage blanc is a cultured fresh cheese from France that closely resembles cream cheese. It can be drained to a thicker consistency or kept a little liquidy for use in cooking or making sauces and can be flavored anyway you see fit. You can order the cultures here.

Concord Grape Juice

Concord Grape Juice

Have you ever thought about making your own grape juice? Neither had I, until yesterday. On Saturday I had been seduced by the aroma of concord grapes wafting through the breezes at the greenmarket. Seriously, it’s a heady, addicting aroma. So I bought a quart of them, got them home, smelled them and then looked at them and said, “So, now what do I do with you?”

No, the grapes didn’t answer, but I did finally come up with a solution, I turned to the Shakers. Up at the Watervliet site there’s grape vines everywhere, so I figured they’d have some recipes for them, and I was right. I settled on making some juice for use in a pork roast (more on that later).

All you do is pick the grapes off the vine, wash them, add them to a pan with a scant amount of water an let them boil until the pulp has broken down completely, stirring often. Be warned. If you use a wooden spoon, it will be permanently stained a striking (and attractive) shade of shocking violet. Once the juice has cooled slightly, strain it through a colander lined with cheesecloth. That’s it. You can then use the juice in cooking or dilute it with a little seltzer for a refreshing beverage.

Dessert

Ice Cream & Pretzels

My grandmother grew up in Bucks Co. Pennsylvania. Her favorite dessert, that she claims everyone ate, was peach ice cream eaten with Amish hard pretzels. It was always the treat she gave me when I would visit and I crave it often. While my grammy’s still around, she can no longer remember much of her past, so I keep at least a little part of it alive in this dessert.

Peach ice cream can be difficult to find, luckily the pretzels are a snap. Martin’s, who sell at the Union Square greenmarket, are the real deal, exactly like the ones I remember her brining back from her annual visits to Bethlehem. If you love the combination of salty and sweet, this is the treat for you. I especially like it with vanilla goat’s milk ice cream as a stand-in for the peach. Enjoy!