Wait, hear me out. I knew if the title read: Day 104: homemade crusty bread and freshly churned butter, the collective groan would be ‘oh come on!’, and everyone would abandon me for getting all Martha.
But seriously, I was desperate. I had mixed up a batch of no-knead bread yesterday and forgotten about it until this morning, and so baked it. (That’s the great thing about no-knead bread; people think it’s inconvenient that it has to sit for 12-24 hours, but it’s the most convenient that way: you have a 12 hour window in which to find time to pop it into the oven, rather than spend hours in its service; kneading, resting, punching and rising.)
I taught an hors d’ouevres class at The Cookbook Company this afternoon, and ate my share of spanikopita and bacon wrapped Medjool dates stuffed with Parmesano-Reggiano (I’m sure those will come up again this year – they have to) at about 5, and got home to find myself locked out. So I sat on the patio for an hour and a half, and by the time I got in didn’t have the gumption to feed myself properly, not that I really needed to after cooking all afternoon. (M & W ate at his mum’s.)
Right, the butter. I didn’t have any, and the bread was all warm and crusty. It was tragic. As I rummaged through the fridge I found about about a cup of whipping cream left over from the strawberry shortcakes, and remembered making butter in elementary school by turning the little pint of cream over and over all day long. The seed, I suppose, had been planted by a video of Daniel Patterson making butter on the current Epicurious home page. Was I really that desperate? Yes. (If you smelled this bread you’d understand.) Besides, what’s the difference between spending 10 minutes (2 minutes actual effort) making the stuff and spending 10 minutes running to the store to buy some?
I quickly referred to the Daniel Patterson recipe, lest I had forgotton some essential detail since 5th grade. I hadn’t. All you do is beat cream for a long time, and it turns into butter. I poured it into my stand mixer, took his advice to splatter-guard the top with plastic wrap, and turned it on high for about 10 minutes while I went about my stuff. (It does tend to spatter once the butter separates from the buttermilk, so the plastic wrap is a good idea.)
In about 10 minutes, I had lovely, soft, pale yellow butter. You can then salt it, although I don’t understand why this is kneaded in at the end, rather than as you beat the cream. I like mine sweet; it reminds me of eating out at a fancy restaurant, so I had some plain and then mashed in a little salt. So I suppose that was technically dinner. (I finished half a banana and a carrot, too.)
Next time, once the butter is done, I’m going to try beating in some Highwood Crossing cold-pressed canola oil, then spread it in a crock and chill it. My theory is that it will stay soft and spreadable in the fridge. I’ll keep you posted.
Adapted from Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting (I usually use half whole wheat and half all-purpose, sometimes with a shake of ground flaxseed added)
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (sometimes I use about 1/3 teaspoon regular active dry yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl stir together the flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and let it rest on the countertop for 18-24 hours at room temperature.
The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice, then roughly shape into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Fold it over the bread or cover with another cotton towel and let it sit for another hour or two.
While the bread is resting, preheat the oven to 450°. Put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and flip the dough over into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that’s OK. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 10-15 minutes, until it’s nice and golden. Eat up!
April 13 2008 10:35 pm | bread