Sunday, April 29, 2007

Staff of Life

I should not eat bread.

My body does not like carbs, and so when I avoid bread and other starchy and sugary things, I am a nicer, healthier person.*

My husband, however, could survive on bread and jam and cake and still be a thin, wiry and emotionally balanced person.

Clearly, we have very different body chemistries.

So Alan makes and eats a lot of bread. He has done this for the past few years with a bread machine, which produces convenient and adequate bread.

But today he made bread in a new way, following a recipe given to us by a neighbor. It is a slow-food, no-knead kind of bread. I was very skeptical: no-knead bread sounds like fake bread.

But look at how beautifully it turned out!

What we got was a beautiful French peasant loaf.

And I ate three pieces, slathered with butter, even though I knew I shouldn't. It was worth it.

The recipe takes about 24 hours. You need a 6-8 quart heavy oven-proof pot with a lid. We didn't have this, but our neighbor let us use her heavy Creuset casserole.

Combine 3 cups of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of yeast, 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of salt and 1 cup plus 5/8 of a cup of water and stir until blended. It is a very sticky dough. Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 12-18 hours at warm room temperature.

Dough is ready when bubbles are all over the surface. Put dough on a lightly floured surface, flour your hands and fold the dough over on itself once or twice. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15-20 minutes.

Flour your hands and shape the dough into a ball. Coat a cotton towel (or flour sack) with flour or cornmeal; put dough seam-side down on the towel. Dust with flour or corn meal. Cover with another towel and let rise for two hours.

Put the heavy 6-8 quart covered pot into the oven and then pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Let oven (and the empty pot) sit at that temperature for 30 minutes.

Slide dough into hot pot, seam side up. Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes; remove lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes until loaf is brown and crusty.

Et viola! Amazing bread.

* The book that changed my entire way of eating was Life Without Bread.

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