Dec 19, 2009

No Knead Holiday Pumpkin Bread

I've been telling myself to try making bread with the no-knead method that has become so popular. I bake bread every week so I'm already in the kitchen. I have to admit, the results always look great. I've read about it, watched videos about it, researched it. Why am I not doing it?

The technique of a long, slow rise with no kneading is not new. It's been around pretty much since the idea of leavened bread. But a few years ago, the New York Times did a piece about Jim Lahey and his Sullivan Street Bakery and the "new" concept just took off.

I went to YouTube to watch even more videos before finally deciding to just do it. I found Chef John's Holiday Pumpkin Bread and knew immediately this was to be my first No-Knead bread. Chef John's website is a great video resource for cooking. The videos are easy to follow. His narration is casual and puts you at ease and he's funny too.
I watched his video for this bread two dozen times (I suggest you do the same), gathered my ingredients then just did it. It was easy. It worked. The bread is delicious. Why did I wait? Don't let the term "Holiday" throw you. The pumpkin gives the bread a beautiful color. The itsy bitsy pinch of spice you add is barely tasted but it does add a subtle comfort to the bread.

The ingredients:

1/2 cup plain pumpkin puree (use water for plain bread)
1 cup water plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
a bitty pinch of ground pumpkin pie spice
3 cups flour
cornmeal as needed

Mix all of these ingredients together and you have your dough. It is that easy, however, do yourself a favor and dissolve the yeast and salt into the water, then mix with pumpkin then add the flour. This way all your ingredients are distributed evenly.

Cover this mixture with a damp cloth then set aside for 12-16 hours.

When you return, the dough will be kinda bubbly and wet and sticky. Perfect. Scrape out the dough onto a floured surface and gently spread out into a rough rectangle. Then fold up like a letter or package. Dust with flour as needed and pick up the dough and form a smooth ball. This really takes just a few minutes.Let the ball of dough rest for about an hour and a half covered with a dry, floured towel on the baking sheet that you sprinkled with cornmeal.
While your oven is pre-heating to 425 degrees, put about 2 inches of water in a shallow pan and put the pan on the bottom rack of the oven. This will create steam while the bread is baking and steam will help create a great crust.

Before baking the bread, score the top of the loaf gently with a very sharp knife. A slash, a few slashes, a cross, a tic-tac-toe shape, whatever you like.

Bake for 30 minutes at 425. Then turn the pan and bake another 20 minutes. Each oven is different so you might want to turn the bread sooner. I can only let my bread go about 20 minutes then I have to turn it. And your bread may not need the full 50 minutes. You can check the temperature of the bread and if it's already hit 200 degrees you're good. If you read the books or watch the videos, you will hear the bread must be 210 degrees. But I think if I have to decide between a temperature and bread that is too dark, the bread comes out of the oven immediately. The bread will cook little bit more once you've removed it from the oven. Don't sweat this kind of stuff, really. The idea is to get into the kitchen and make your own bread. Your very own bread. How cool is that?

Remove the bread the from the oven to a cooling rack immediately. DO NOT TOUCH THE BREAD. The cooling period helps the crust become crust. WAIT AT LEAST AN HOUR.

When the time finally comes, you can slice the bread. Please use a bread knife and please be gentle. It is, after all, bread. Let the knife do the work. Use gentle pressure and the serrated edge to break the crust and then easily glide the knife to and fro. Keep the blade parallel to the bread, perpendicular to the cutting board. Gentle, even slicing motion all the way to the bottom of the slice.You will love this bread. I've got another No-Knead post coming soon. This time I made a batch of dough to be used over the course of several days. Stay tuned.

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