There are a few things in life that I pay people to do for me. Ok, there are a lot of things I pay people to do for me. Make my clothes, develop my photos, do my taxes (yeah, I’m lame, SO WUT.)
Food-wise, there is not a lot that I like to pay actual paper dollars for other people to do for me. I mean, I like to cook, and I like to know what I’m putting in my food. And usually, I can do it just as well or better than someone else.
However, if I do pay for food, it’s usually because the producer can offer something that I actually can’t do myself. For example, I pay someone to make me Chinese food and deliver it to my door because I know I can’t reproduce those flavors well enough with my limited supply of exotic cooking oils and MSG. I pay for doughnuts because I don’t own an industrial size vat of oil (and I feel better eating them not seeing the deep FAT frying process go down.)
The exception to this is sandwiches. I regularly pay for people to make sandwiches for me, but it’s not because I couldn’t make a better sandwich. I’m pretty all right at sandwiches. What I’m really paying for is for someone to take out all the individual ingredients from the fridge and portion them out into single servings and then arrange them. Sew annoying for me to do. So yeah, I’ll pay you $4 for that ham sandwich.
Lots of times, I’ll pay for artisan-style bread, too. You know, the kind with the crunchy, chewy crust and deep flavor. Sidenote, anyone know why they call it artisan-“style?” Like, in the style of an artisan? Where all my artisans at? We need more artisans in this world.
Other sidenote, does anyone shop the roasted garlic artisan bread at Costco? It is so fab the day it’s baked. All you need is a swipe of butter. It’s also great for fondue. Ok, I have to stop talking about that now.
And start talking about this bread. That I made. And it was actually artisan-y! I didn’t even think it was possible for me to accomplish this. I heard last year that the way they get that chewy, crunchy outer crust is by trapping steam in the oven right at the beginning of the bake time. I forget why this works. Anyway, I promptly dismissed bread-making. I mean, who has a steam-trapping oven conveniently located in their kitchen?
I saw a recipe on Tasty Kitchen for No-Knead Bread, which is one of those Pinterest food trends I missed because I don’t even like Pinterest. The more I checked out the blogger reviews of the technique, the more I liked the idea. I mean, all you do is chuck everything together, let it sit over night and then bake it up. And I was real intrigued after I saw the NYT recipe that created a faux-steam-oven in a cast iron pot. Could I, even I, make artisan-style bread?
I actually did this bread twice. I made up my own recipe as an amalgamation of a few no-knead bread recipes, including HERBS (the best) and big hunks of BLACK GARLIC (whose superfood properties you can read about here).
So I made up this big batch of dough, but tried two different techniques to bake the bread. The first one is linked below, but the technique was not as good as the NYT version I linked below. It involved filling a pan with boiling water shutting the oven door really quick to create the steam.
The resulting bread was good, but the NYT bread had that crunchy crust I was looking for, and the consistency of the crumb was better and holey-er. Because bread is so affected by miniscule changes in ingredients and technique, I am interested to try the NYT recipe to the letter next time. And there will be a next time.
Here is the open-faced egg and parm sandwich I made for my family. The bread was so good I went to the trouble of making a sandwich. No one paid me, unfortunately.
Black Garlic Herb Bread
2 tablespoons fresh or dried herbs (rosemary, thyme and sage)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 package active dry yeast (.75 ounce packets)
1 tablespoon salt
3 1/4 cups white, whole-wheat flour
1 head black garlic, peeled
Chop up the herbs very finely, using a knife or kitchen shears.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the warm water (about 100 degrees F) with the salt until dissolved. Sprinkle yeast over the top of the water, and let the mixture sit for 2-4 minutes.
Mix the herbs and garlic thoroughly into your flour.
Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the yeast mixture until there are no dry spots and the dough forms into a shaggy mass. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm room (about 70 degrees F) for 12-18 hours.
When the dough is risen and dotted with bubbles, lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. If you like, you can split the dough in half and make two smaller loaves if you have two pots. Sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour and put the dough seam side down on towel, dusting with more flour. Cover with another cotton towel, and let rise for an hour.
A half hour before the dough is done rising, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered cast-iron pot in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven–don’t burn yourself! Turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up, shaking the pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed. Cover with the pot lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is a deep brown browned. Let cool on a rack before slicing into the bread to retain the moisture.
Yields one 1½-pound loaves, or two smaller loaves.