Apart from Irish Soda Bread, which uses no yeast and is easy, yeasted breads have for some reason challenged me. Yeast never did that bubbling thing. I could never get the dough to rise. For a long time I gave up. Perhaps not a big deal – except in a previous blog post I mentioned that in the “last supper game” – I’d be wanting bread – so one would think I should be able to make it. Before Christmas (2014) I announced to my sweet DIL that one New Year’s resolution was to successfully bake bread. She ensured that bread flour from a fab Kensington Market bakery – Blackbird – appeared under the Christmas tree. They say if you really want to achieve a goal announce it publicly. If you are feeling ambivalent – maybe best to tell no one – haha. Added to this, America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) published their “All Time Best Bread Recipes”. The planets were aligning – time for me to tackle bread-making and break the jinx.
The bread recipe that motivated me was ATK’s (Almost) No Knead Bread 2.0. Why “almost”? Why 2.0?
"No knead bread" got a lot of publicity back in 2006, from an article by Mark Bittman who, among other things, writes for the New York Times. He interviewed and recorded for posterity a no knead bread recipe from Jim Lahey of NYC’s Sullivan Street Bakery. They debated whether a 4 year old could make it – and Bittman concluded it would have to be at least an 8 year old. Central to the recipe is that time replaces the work done by kneading – and we’re talking here of a long time – Lahey advises about 18 hours. I knew of this story – listened to a CBC Radio personality trying to master this bread - but did not take the plunge until ATK’s 2.0 version.
ATK is a “test” kitchen and they test, test, test to perfect recipe variables and outcomes. Their changes to Lahey’s recipe are primarily: first rise can be 8-18 hours, they add beer to boost flavour, and they knead the dough after the first rise (only) 10-15 times. The dough requires a second rise. It is baked in a Dutch oven. I began this on an evening around 8:00 and dinner (supper) the next day was accompanied by a fabulous bread. ATK offers variations: olive / rosemary / Parmesan; cranberry / pecan; seeded rye; whole wheat.
I have since tried another bread recipe which will appear in a future blog – comparing the two, this one had a great (better) crust and great flavour. Click here for the ATK 2.0 recipe and my tips. (Click coming soon...)
This satisfying baking adventure is not likely to turn me into a regular bread maker. I still buy bread. Compared to decades ago, there seem to be a proliferation of bakeries these days. Locally there’s Pane Fresco, Cake and Loaf (they make the cheese bread used by the Gorilla Cheese Food Truck; follow Cake and Loaf on Instagram and you’ll be drooling every hour).
When it comes to bread, for me it has to compete with a food memory – bread eaten in Hungary decades ago. I am not sure why that was so good. The closest thing I have found here is the Potato bread from de la terre bakery. If you visit their little storefront in Vineland, you may be disappointed by what’s left. Almost easier to find their bread at Goodness Me, Picone’s and the Hamilton Farmers' Market or these other locations. See also Best Breads in Toronto. Would be a interesting project to check out each of those TO bread bakeries!
Might be fun to make this blog a bit interactive. Use the Comments tool below to share your favourite bread. Comments do not require you to leave your full name.