2009 will be a good cooking year for me if the past several weeks are any indication. I finally overcame a decade-long fear of baking with yeast, after a baking experiment gone terribly awry in an old boyfriend’s Red Hook apartment, and took the plunge with that No-Knead Bread everyone was talking about, well, forever ago. For any of you who placed “yeast baking” on your list of New Year’s Resolutions or bucket list or what-have-you, I heartily recommend you try this method. For such a teensy bit of effort, such glorious results.
No-Knead Bread – Shana’s Way
Yield one 1 1/2 pound loaf
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting [I used King Arthur’s all-purpose flour]
¼ teaspoon instant yeast [I used Red Star brand]
1¼ teaspoons salt [I used Baleine fine sea salt]
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed [I used coarse-ground yellow cornmeal]
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. [I let my dough rest at least 18 hours both times I’ve made it.]
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly 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. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. 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)–or a piece of parchment paper, if you want to avoid washing extra towels– with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal [as above, I used coarse cornmeal]; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel or piece of parchment paper and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. [I used my Le Creuset 6 quart dutch oven--it's enameled- coated cast iron and works beautifully for this.] When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. [I notice that my oven runs hot, so I only do 5 minutes with the lid off.] Cool on a rack.
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The other small miracle I’d like to share with you was the side of salmon I roasted over the holiday. Again, it’s a tiny bit of effort with awesome results: my favorite style of cooking. You can easily halve the recipe for an easy weeknight meal, and serve it with some roasted potatoes and a salad. Or you could make the whole recipe for an easy yet elegant dish for entertaining; try it with wild mushroom risotto and braised fennel.
Roast Side of Salmon with Mustard, Tarragon, and Chive Sauce
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup spicy brown mustard (such as Gulden’s)
6 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
6 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1 3 1/2-to 3 3/4-pound whole side of salmon with skin (about 1 1/2 inches thick at thickest part)
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 450°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix first 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Season mustard sauce lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Place salmon, skin side down, on diagonal on prepared sheet. Spoon 1/2 cup mustard sauce atop salmon, then spread over, covering completely. Sprinkle salmon generously with salt and pepper. Roast just until salmon is opaque in center, about 15 minutes. Using parchment as aid, transfer salmon to platter. Cut crosswise into pieces and serve with remaining mustard sauce. Can be served right away or at room temperature.