Sunday, April 27, 2014

(Wo)Man Vs. Bread

First Attempt At Making Bread

In March, one of my close friends was visiting in Boston and I decided that I wanted to make a special meal for her before she left. Given that I had a limited budget, I knew I wanted to do something that won't cost a lot to make but would still be really special. I settled on making her a chicken sandwich.

This wasn't just any kind of chicken sandwich though. The bread would be baked from scratch. The chicken roasted in house. And the pesto of cost was home-made as well. There was just a little problem with this plan...I don't have an oven at home. No! This post isn't about how to bake bread without an oven. Ok! Maybe on some level it is.

I found someone who was willing to let me use their oven to bake the bread and chicken. All I had to do was get the dough ready. I had settled on a very famous recipe for the bread. It is the 'No-Knead Bread' from NYTimes. I have always been a fan of Mark Bittman aka The Minimalist, a former food columnist now Food Op-Ed writer for the NYTimes so I was familiar with the recipe even though I had never tried it.

So lots of research later, I had read many bloggers talking about how they had made the bread. I mean one of the bloggers even had the heading "No Knead Bread: So Easy A 4 Year Old Can Make It." My confident level was high. I could totally do this. So Saturday evening, before bedtime, I set up the bread dough. I figured 12 hours or so later I would be eating totally yummy bread.

The next day, despite the warmer temperatures earlier in the week, it was a rainy day. So with my packed cooking bag and a big bowl of dough in a bag, I set out on foot to the train station a mile away. About 90 minutes later, I arrived at the designated kitchen to discover a totally deflated bread dough. I still baked the flat dough. The crust came out a bit too crunchy....Okay! The crust came out tough and not really edible with almost no fluffy middle.

(Wo)Man: 0 vs Bread:1

Round 2
This past weekend, I got an unexpected opportunity to cook at a friend's house. I was excited because I figured I could try the bread again. I figured with the first go round I had learned a few lessons on making 'No-Knead Bread.'

Freshly Mixed Bread Dough
Freshly Mixed Bread Dough

On Friday night I set about to making the dough again. I was more confident this time apparently because I actually took pictures along the way. As you can see above, I had the recipe open on my iPad and followed instructions. After the dough ball was formed, I took it up to my room to keep at the bottom of my closet where it is much warmer at night than the kitchen. The next day I woke up to a well risen dough after 8 hours. 

Then it was time to transport the dough to the friend's house for baking. I was lucky to have a ride this time around. My poor friend had to drive in an overheated car because I did not want the dough to be cold. I was a tad bit paranoid I must admit but the dough made it. It looked so gorgeous after rising for the optimal 18 hours.

 All I needed to do now was shape the dough and do a second proofing for two hours. Something I learned the last time baking bread was to use a covered container. I tried to buy the generally recommended cast iron pan but I was too broke to spend 50 dollars on just one pot. However, I got a big Pyrex bowl. So after proofing a second time, I dusted the bottom of the Pyrex generously with flour and transferred in the dough. 

Alternate method for baking no knead bread dough with pyrex bowl tightly sealed with foil
Tightly Sealed Pyrex Bowl with Bread Dough

I baked it according to the instruction. And it looked so good. It was just the right about brown playing away on the crust. I was excited. I was salivating. Then it was time to take the bread out of the Pyrex bowl and nothing. The bread was stuck. The taste on the bread is exquisite. The crust out of the oven was crunchy. The middle of the bread had such good hole pattern to showing good yeast activity. But still, the bread was stuck...

Freshly Baked Bread in a Pyrex dish
Such Gorgeous Looking Bread
(Wo)Man:0 vs. Bread: 2

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