No, that is not a photo of bread made with my wild-captured yeast. I seemed to have committed yeasticide and I don’t know why. I’m also not sure why I was doing it when I have perfectly good dry yeast in the fridge. So…
My brother sent me a recipe for no-knead bread that his son Demitri makes when they go camping. My nephew uses a Dutch oven and cooks over coals of course — that’s the proper way to make camp bread, isn’t it? But me? Using the kitchen stove’s oven means way less of a chance of my creating a lump of charcoal. I’ve made enough of those over the years, thank you very much.
There are only three ingredients in Demitri’s recipe, plus water — though my brother swears that putting lots and lots of garlic in the dough makes for a super bread. Maybe so, but first I want to turn out the perfect loaf of plain old bread using the no-knead method.
So. If you’ve read about my cooking in the past, you know I can’t just follow a recipe. Well, the first time I do try to follow it. Really. After that, though, I just gotta mess around with ingredients and/or method until I’ve either wrecked the whole thing or come up with something that makes me feel like I’m some kind of Julia Child.
Demitri’s camp bread (original instructions)
- 3 cups flour*
- 1 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cup room temp water
- Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl
- Mix in room temp water
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap (to prevent moisture loss) and a towel (to keep dark) and set aside for 18 – 24 hours at room temp
- Put flour on your hands and shape dough to a ball. Add garlic if you want at this point. Let dough rise till the oven’s hot
- Put Dutch oven with lid in oven and heat to 450.
- Once Dutch oven is thoroughly warmed up, place some flour on bottom (to prevent sticking) and add dough.
- Bake with lid on for 30 min, then remove lid and cook for 15 min.
And then there’s my version
I made one loaf according to the instructions, but it hardly rose and was uncooked in the center, though it tasted surprisingly okay. I made another the same way and got the same results, so it was time for research. I’m at 7000′. I kind of vaguely remembered that altitude matters when baking. I checked out the King Arthur Baking site, as well as a New Mexico State University site for high altitude cooking. Since I’m in New Mexico I figured I should go with what my state says.
Except the info on the two sites didn’t seem logical to me. It makes no sense to increase the water, and then to increase the flour. All that means is the salt and yeast proportions are lower except they say to increase the yeast, too. Huh? Plus it all seemed terribly counter intuitive and if nothing else I’m into intuitive cooking (which is not to say my intuition is all that great — hence the lumps of charcoal and/or hockey puck loaves). Anyway, to make a long story short, it was time to mess around. Here’s the condensed version of the steps I took.
Issues with my bread using Demitri’s recipe so far:
- Not rising in the oven enough.
- Crust is way too crispy/brittle, making it hard to cut; and yet the center is not baked enough.
- I folded the dough (not mixed, not punched down, just gently folded over a few times) right in the bowl after about 12 hours of rising. After another 12 hours, I folded it on a floured surface and shaped it, then let it sit while the oven was warming.
- I heated the oven to 500° then turned it down to 425° when I put the dough in the Dutch oven. I didn’t bother with flour in the bottom of it.
- After half an hour, I turned down the temp to 325° and baked for 20 more minutes with the lid still on.
Results (the photos on this page):
- The bread rose much higher than before, nearly 4″ in the center. The diameter of the loaf is just over 6″, so I’m thinking the super hot Dutch oven prevented it from spreading out.
- The texture of the loaf is great, though I do like it with more holes (picky picky). The crust is chewy without being brittle/crispy, and thus much easier to cut. The center is almost fully baked. I can do better than this!
Here’s is what I will do next loaf (still using Demitri’s ingredients as provided)
- I will fold it twice in the bowl during 24 hours rising time (i.e. 8 hour intervals). Then I’ll do the same fold/shaping and letting it sit while the oven’s heating.
- I will do the same temperature thing — preheat at 500°, bake at 425° for the first half hour. I’ll still leave the lid on after that, and will again turn the temp down to continue baking at 325° — but I will extend the baking time to 25 minutes.
Yeah, yeah –I didn’t shape this loaf of bread well and so it’s wonky, but darn, it’s good! I’m feeling like singing with a glass of wine in my hand, if you get my drift.