Sweetcakes: Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

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A surplus of overripe bananas is never a bad thing in our house. For one thing, my husband actually eats them. And when he forgets—or when I’ve really bought too many bananas, as I did this week—I make banana bread.

Here’s the thing: I rarely make banana bread the same way twice. Sometimes I feel virtuous and make it with whole wheat flour and flaxseed meal. Other times I’ll brown the butter in a saucepan before mixing the batter, which gives it a nutty flavor. Occasionally I’m inspired to throw in some chopped dark chocolate, or when I really want a treat, I make my banana bread with peanut butter.

Today I decided to modify my approach. My thought process went something like this: I wanna make banana bread, but I can’t keep it in the house because we’ll eat it all. I’ll give it to Paul to take to work. But bringing a bread to work is kind of awkward, the cutting and all. Okay, so! Muffins it is. Let’s add some chocolate chips. I have the end of a jar of peanut butter, so maybe i can scrape away about a quarter cup… now to Google recipes. Nothing for banana peanut butter chocolate chip muffins? Internet, you disappoint me.

I found a recipe for banana chip muffins, took it apart, then put it back together my way. What I’ve created here is a super-easy, incredibly decadent-feeling, flavor-packed breakfast, dessert, or snack.

Here you go, America.

RECIPE: BANANA PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS

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Time: 12 minute to prep / 20 minutes to bake

Serves: 15 (12 muffins, plus a mini-loaf for 3)

Ingredients:

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. coarse salt

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

3 very ripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)

3/4 c. dark brown sugar (not packed)

1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled slightly (4 tbsp. or a half stick)

1/4 c. creamy peanut butter

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Spray a mini-loaf pan with Pam, or rub some vegetable oil along sides and bottom to coat.

Combine the first four ingredients together in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk. Next, combine the banana and sugar in a larger bowl, mixing quickly with a whisk to break up any lumps in the sugar. Next add the rest of the wet ingredients, the butter through the vanilla, and mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture is uniform.

Fold the flour mixture into the the wet mixture until just combined. Then stir in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Divide batter first among muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full. Put the remainder of the batter in the loaf pan, and using a spatula try to even out the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The mini-loaf may take a few minutes longer than the muffins. Cool everything in-pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out carefully onto a plate and allow to cool completely.

Serving suggestions:

These muffins go equally well with coffee or tea. If you think that’s a really tame suggestion—well, fine. Do it. Get the vanilla ice cream or the fro-yo. Mash it all together in a bowl and have yourself a banana peanut butter chocolate chip muffin sundae. BOOM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food To Warm Your Bones: Soup, Pizza, Bread, and Brownies

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Soup, pizza, bread, and brownies. With a seemingly never-ending blizzard going on outside, really—what more do you need?

(Please don’t say bourbon or wine or a Dark & Stormy, because I’m on Day 23 of Sober January, and I am determined to make it to Day 31.)

Anyway, back to the food. When I asked my husband if he wanted me to make anything special for blizzard weekend, he replied with an enthusiastic “Bread! Make bread! Please please please!”

The bread he’s referring to is this, a perfectly round boule with a dense, crisp crust and soft, chewy interior. Hot out of the oven, it is exactly what you want when you’re trying to defrost yourself after several hours of shoveling. The dough is actually the easiest thing to put together, and takes about five minutes since there’s no kneading involved. As I was gathering the flour, yeast and salt, I figured I might as well make pizza dough. Bring on the carbs!

The pizza dough requires minimal kneading, and it also takes almost no time to prepare—if you have a food processor.  I highly recommend that you use bread flour if you’re making pizza or bread. You get a much crisper crust and a wonderfully airy, chewy center.

Making pizza from scratch is like creating a blank canvas on which to paint your dinner. You could go traditional and use tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, or your could try something different. My best pizzas have been inspired by the leftovers in my fridge.

That pizza you see in the picture?  I cooked a batch of beans in my slow cooker last Sunday and had about a cup left in the refrigerator. Beans on a pizza? I’ve heard weirder. Herbed, creamy white beans are a natural fit with garlic, so I lopped the tops off two bulbs, roasted them, then mashed the cloves into a paste. As for cheese, I had three to choose from: chevre, Pecorino and mozzarella. Pecorino has the salty-tangy-pow of flavor that really punches up the beans and garlic. I finished with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a smattering of kosher salt. Voi-la: a classy, photogenic and mostly importantly DELICIOUS dinner. This is a pizza you can have on its own, or if you’re feeling more virtuous you can have a slice with a green salad or bowl of soup…

Soup! Of course—what could be more perfect on a cold, blustery, blizzardy day?  This one was entirely improvised, and I built the recipe around two ingredients: beluga lentils and lascinato kale.  What’s funny is that both these foods sound so much fancier than they actually are. Beluga lentils are petite black lentils that, like the French green lentils, maintain their shape and texture well in soups. Bonus: they don’t require nearly as long to cook. Lascinato kale, (or Dinosaur kale, or black kale) is my favorite of the kales. It has this unique pebbly texture, it keeps in the fridge for weeks, and the leaves are so versatile. I find they’re more tender than regular curly kale, so they work equally well in salads, soups and sautes.

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Here’s the recipe for the soup. Keep in mind I used the seasonings and vegetables I had on hand, but you can use whatever you like. Cumin, coriander and garam masala lean on the earthier side of the spice spectrum. You could add more heat, or flavor the soup with herbs instead.

Recipe: Lentil Kale Soup

Time: 90 minutes, prep to table
Serves: 4

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
scant 1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp aleppo pepper
1/2 large vidalia onion, finely diced
1 shallot, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
2 small parsnips, peeled, cored and chopped
5 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup beluga (black) lentils
1 cup beef stock
4 cups water
1 bunch Lascinato kale (AKA black kale or dinosaur kale), washed, trimmed of stems and cut into 1” ribbons
4 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat for 2 minutes. Add oil, swirl to coat pan. Add all the spices (cumin through the aleppo pepper), and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. The mixture will be dark and fragrant.

Add the next six ingredients (onion through garlic), and stir to coat with the spice mixture. Lower the heat to medium-low, add a dash of salt, and let the vegetables cook undisturbed for about 10 minutes, until they soften.

Add the lentils and stir, raising the heat back to medium high. Add the beef stock and the water. Allow the mixture to come to a boil.

Once it starts boils, reduce to a simmer and let cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the kale, stirring it into the mixture. You may have to reduce the heat, but you want to keep the soup at a steady simmer for about 35-40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

Turn off the heat, add salt and pepper to your taste, and sprinkle the the thyme leaves over the soup. Stir and serve immediately, or allow to cool completely before portioning. Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze up to 3 months.

I didn’t forget the brownies, by the way. Here’s a recipe for fudgy brownies that has all the flavor and a little less guilt than standard recipes. And here’s a tip: If you want to amp up the chocolate flavor, add a teaspoon of instant espresso to the dry ingredients, and a tablespoon of chocolate liquor to the wet ingredients. Your inner chocaholic will thank you.

 

Recipes from Mom: Spinach Phyllo Triangles & Lemon Cookies

Happy Monday, all!

For those of you that asked, here are the recipes for two of the many dishes my mom served at this year’s Easter feast—Phyllo Triangles stuffed with spinach & ricotta cheese to kick off the meal, and sweet-tart Lemon Cookies to end it.

Phyllo Triangles filled with spinach & ricotta. Serve alone or with marinated artichokes.

RECIPE:

Spinach-Phyllo Triangles

Yield: 40-50 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg. frozen leaf spinach (not chopped)
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 whole clove of garlic, peeled
  • Extra virgin olive oil (for sautéing)
  • Parsley (leave from 4 stems), chopped
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
  • Salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 package Phyllo dough (preferably fresh)
  • ½ stick of butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil

Method:

Remove spinach from freezer to defrost. When it begins to soften, use a knife to cut the block into strips, about 1” thick. Once it reaches room temperature you can start pulling it apart. Drain the spinach of any excess water using a colander, or wrap it in paper towels and squeeze the water out.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat, and add about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, followed by the garlic. The garlic should not be sizzling strongly; you just want it to flavor the oil. Once you see the garlic start to turn a golden brown, remove it and add the spinach and a pinch of salt. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl.

After the spinach has cooled for a few minutes, add the cheeses, parsley, a generous pinch of pepper and a small pinch of salt, then finally the egg. Mix with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are combined.

Combine the melted butter and 4 tbsp. olive oil in a bowl. Remove a sheet of phyllo carefully and set it on a large cutting board or other large, clean flat surface. Brush the phyllo sheet lightly with the butter & oil mixture. Lay a second sheet of phyllo on top and repeat.

Cut the 2 layered sheets into 5 strips. Towards the bottom of the first strip, in the center but towards the right, apply 1 tbsp of the spinach/cheese mixture, and fold according to the diagram below.

How to fill, shape and fold your triangles, courtesy of Mom.

Brush the top and bottom of the stuffed triangle with the oil/butter mixture, and set the triangle on a cookie sheet.  Repeat the process with the remaining phyllo and filling until you run out.  The triangles should be 1.5” – 2” apart on the cookie sheet. Use more if needed.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the triangles for about 25 minutes, until they turn golden all over. Serve immediately, or cool completely and refrigerate for up to one week. Heat before serving.

* * *

Lemon Cookies!

RECIPE: Lemon Cookies

Biscottini al Limone

Yield: 30-35 cookies

 Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of butter, softened  (4oz)
  • ½ cup of sugar  (4 oz)
  • 2 eggs (large or extra large)
  • 1 ts of Lemon Extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 4 tsp Baking Powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup of milk
  • Icing (recipe follows)

Method:

Combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Cream butter and sugar together with a mixer, then add eggs, one at a time, followed by extract. Continue beating and add the flour mixture, and as it incorporates into the dough, add the milk. Mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Using a tablespoon to shape each dough mound into a ball, place each dough ball about 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, until they are just turning a light golden brown at the edges.

As the cookies cool, prepare your icing.  You will need:

  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract

Mix ingredients thoroughly with a spoon or whisk. The mixture should not be watery.  When ready, apply about a spoonful of icing to each cookie and coat with your fingers. Allow the icing to solidify for about two hours.

Serve immediately, or store up to 4 days in a cookie tin lined with wax paper. Do not store the cookies in a plastic container (it makes the icing funky).

Need to use Leftover Buttermilk? Try Blueberry Muffins with Crunchy Cinnamon Topping

Have you ever bought a quart of buttermilk, only to use a half-cup for a recipe and then completely forget that said buttermilk is in your fridge?  Then one day, you find the buttermilk, open the carton and gag, only to throw the aged lumpy mess away?

Yep, I’ve been there. And the last time I found myself with leftover buttermilk in the fridge, I was determined not to let it go to waste.

So, the experiments began.

I used the buttermilk in place of butter & cream in cheesy mashed potatoes (success), as a soaking liquid for chicken that I ultimately breaded and oven-fried (success again), and mixed some into my parsnip & apple smash (a delightful success). But because a little buttermilk goes a long way, I still had some left. What to do?

I remembered a buttermilk berry cake recipe I read last summer on Creamed Butter, a blog written by my friend Andrew’s fiancé, Adrienne.  The cake looked delicious and the recipe was so simple I dubbed it “Lazy Summer Cake”—it requires so little effort, and though it’s not fancy, it’s incredibly satisfying and a great way to showcase the marvelous berries of summer.

I didn’t really feel like making a cake, but revisiting the recipe gave me an idea: muffins. The great thing about muffins is that they’re perfectly portioned, not to mention portable, which makes a muffin an ideal breakfast on a busy morning. As you’ll see from the pictures on Creamed Butter, the cake is pretty light, but it’s not high-rising, so I had to do a little tinkering to make the cake recipe muffin-friendly.

For starters, I substituted the all-purpose flour with cake flour (an easy sub is included below).  I made sure to sift the cake flour a few times until I had a pile of snowy, feathery light powder—ideal for a delicate crumb and a generously puffed muffin top. I kept the rest of the proportions in the recipe the same, except for the berries—I used a pint of blueberries—then folded them into the batter instead of placing them on top. You could use less berries, but I like muffins with a lot of fruit.  Finally, I prepared a crunchy topping of oats, cinnamon, sugar and crushed sliced almonds.

The result is a portable, pretty and satisfying treat perfect for breakfast or to kill the mid-afternoon slump—and unlike most coffee shop muffins that are lead-weight and huge, you a muffin that won’t give you carb coma. At first bite, you’re greeted by the warmth of the cinnamon sugar and the crunch of the oats & almonds, followed by the pop of juicy blueberries & the hint of lemon in this gently sweet cake. Bliss.

Now go make some.

RECIPE:

Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from Creamed Butter, Summer Buttermilk Berry Cake

Time: 40 minutes

Tools:

  • Electric mixer
  • Fine mesh strainer (for sifting flour)
  • Mortar & pestle (for topping)
  • 12-muffin pan
  • 12 muffin cups

Ingredients

For the muffins:

  • 1 cup cake flour*
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3-cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries

For the Topping (all measurements are approximate):

  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sliced almonds

* One cup cake flour = 1/8 cup cornstarch and 7/8 cup all-purpose flour. The easiest way to do this is to put 2 tablespoons cornstarch into a dry measuring cup, spoon flour in to fill the rest and level off. Mix with a fork or whisk before sifting.

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place paper cups in muffin pan, and spray the cups lightly with non-stick cooking spray if you have it. (If not, no big loss.)

Combine the ingredients of the topping into a small bowl, then use your mortar & pestle to grind the oats and almonds down a bit as they mix with the cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

Sift the cake flour once into a medium bowl. Add baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift two more times and set aside.  In a separate bowl cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Then beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla and lemon zest, until all are fully incorporated.

Alternating the flour and the buttermilk, mix with the butter/sugar/egg mixture until just combined, beginning and ending with the flour.  Gently fold in the blueberries with a wooden spoon or a spatula.

Use a spoon to fill each cup about 2/3 full, then spread the tops until they’re even.  Use a clean spoon to sprinkle the topping on each cup of batter. You’ll have enough to coat the surface of each one.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the middle muffins comes out mostly clean (if it’s got blueberry juice on it, that’s a good thing.)

Eat warm or at room temperature, with a cup of tea or mug of coffee.  If you’re prepping breakfast for the week, allow the muffins to cool completely before wrapping each individually with plastic wrap, placing into a zip-top bag and then putting them into the freezer.

Voi-la!

PS – Weight Watchers Points Plus per muffin: 4!

PPS – This is my 50th post!

A Cookie for the Grown-ups: Sweet-Savory Olive Oil Biscuits

Sweet-Savory Biscuits—perfect with wine.

When was the last time you saw extra virgin olive oil in a dessert recipe?

How about extra virgin olive oil, red wine, black pepper and rosemary in a cookie recipe?

Intrigued? Yes?  Okay, I’ll stop with the questions.

I’m making Sweet-Savory Biscuits for a weekend adventure—the boyfriend and I are going to visit his aunt and uncle, two of my favorite people (and not just because they read this blog).  I chose to make these cookies because their unique flavor & texture make a perfect match for wine & after-dinner drinks, of which the four of us are very big fans.

I have a sneaking suspicion this recipe came from a kitchen experiment.  These cookies are one of Mark Bittman’s variations on his master butter cookies recipe.  Instead of butter, you use olive oil, which requires increasing the flour.  Substitute some of the flour with cornmeal, which lends a wonderful flavor and enhanced texture to the finished cookie.  To make the recipe savory, you decrease the sugar, and add some fresh ground pepper and finely minced fresh rosemary. (You can already start smelling the cookies from the oven, can’t you?)

But we’re not done there! There’s wine!  Instead of using milk as you would for butter cookies, the liquid of choice in this recipe is wine, which adds moisture, flavor, and combines with the green olive oil to make a uniquely colored cookie.  I’ll admit, out of the oven they may not be as pretty as their less savory cousins, but a quick dusting of powdered sugar makes them look as sophisticated as they taste.

Make them this weekend, or make them for Valentine’s Day. These are cookies you share with people you love who love food.

RECIPE:

Sweet-Savory Cookies

From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (2008)

Time: 30 minutes active time / 60-90 minutes inactive time

Yield: 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal (medium grind)
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Method:

Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, ground pepper, minced rosemary and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Use an electric mixer to cream together the olive oil and sugar; add the vanilla extract and egg and beat until well blended.

Add about half the dry ingredients to the bowl, beat for a minute, and then add about three-quarters of the wine. Beat for about 10 seconds, then add the remaining dry ingredients, and the remaining wine if needed—the dough should be soft and moist, but not wet.

Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours. Then preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Using an ice cream scoop, spoon off about a tablespoon and a half of dough from the mound. Gently shape it into a fat disc.  Place each shape about 2.5” inches apart in rows and columns on ungreased baking sheets.

Cross-hatch marks are totally optional, but they do add a cute factor.

Bake until the edges are starting to brown, about 10-12 minutes.  Cool cookies on the sheets before transferring them with a spatula onto a wire rack.  Cool completely, and then dust with sifted powder sugar if you like.

Ta-daa.

Storing:

These cookies can be stored in an air-tight container for 3 days or so; I’ve found they last up to a week when stored in a cookie tin. Be sure to place a sheet of wax paper between layers.

Weight Watchers Points Plus Information:

  • The recipe makes 24 evenly sized cookies, each with a points plus value of 2 (waaay better than I was expecting).

From leftovers to turnovers

Savory Turnover with Squash, Black Beans and Goat Cheese

Nothing inspires me to cook more than someone else’s cooking.

The other night, I ran into my neighbor Katchen in the hall.  She invited me in to her kitchen to return the rolling pin I had loaned her, and gave me a foil-wrapped package.

“Let me know if you like them.  I baked these buns, a recipe from my Polish grandma.  They’ve got some tasty things inside—bacon, peas, onion.  Super simple. I’d been wanting to make them forever.”

I thanked Katchen for the treats, and since I was full from dinner I set the wrapped buns on the counter and left them for lunch the next day.  I woke up later than usual, and favored a warmed bun over my standard fruit & yogurt for breakfast.

I ended up eating both buns. They were that good. I’m a big believer that bacon makes anything taste better, but it wasn’t just the bacon—the filling was moist, and each of the ingredients were perfectly cooked, so the onion and peas still had some bite.   As for the surrounding pastry, it was soft, pillowy—again, not too chewy—and flavorful, though not very buttery.  The buns were delightful, and I could see why Katchen’s grandmother’s recipe survived: it was a simple, comforting and delicious dish.

When I was halfway through the second bun and on my third cup of coffee, my brain began to crank…

I can do this.  Yes, definitely.  But I don’t feel like making dough today…besides, it has to rise. I don’t feel like waiting. Hmm…

Okay, so no buns.  Dumplings? Need wrappers.  Quesadillas?  Need tortillas.  I have $1.50 in my wallet and don’t feel like going to the bank.  Hmm… Pie crust! I have pie crust!  I’ll make turnovers.  And for filling?

Time to improvise.  A quick scan of the refrigerator shelves revealed some good leftovers (shredded butternut squash and cooked broccolini), an aromatic veggie (onion), and the binder for my ingredients (soft goat cheese).  I didn’t have bacon, but I did have chopped pancetta, which would provide good flavor and fat for cooking the onions. The only thing missing was a filling protein, and I found that in my pantry: canned black beans.

I took the crusts out of the freezer to defrost, cooked the onions and sauteed the squash.  Then I lined up all my fillers on the kitchen table. Once the crusts were ready, I unrolled them gently onto a floured cutting board, and got them a bit thinner using my rolling pin.  With a pizza cutter, I cut squares out of the rolled crusts, and set about filling them.

I always have a tendency to overstuff when I fill anything, so I made sure not to put more than a tablespoon of each ingredient onto the bottom square of each turnover, and then sprinkled on the cheese.  I also cut slits in the top square of each turnover to let steam escape during baking.  If you don’t, you’ll find they’ll leak (but they shouldn’t explode, though that would be fun to see).

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Once the turnovers were assembled on the baking sheet, I brushed some egg wash on each one, and topped with a finely grated mix of parmesan and romano cheeses.  Into the oven they went, baking at 400 degrees for 18 minutes—which is when they hit all their golden brown beauty.

The great thing about this dish is that there’s no hard & fast recipe—with pre-made pie crust, all you have to worry about is filling, and you could fill these turnover with a variety of combinations: sausage, tomato, mushroom and mozzarella; corn, roasted pepper and jack cheese; cooked chicken and vegetables; or as I found in the buns Katchen gave me, bacon, peas and onions.  The possibilities are endless, and this is a great dish to make if you’re clearing your fridge or pantry, or want to make something exciting out of boring leftovers.  The only thing I’d advise is not to use anything too wet, as the turnovers will get soggy.

No tricks, no machines, no kneading: Perfect Homemade Bread

At 8am this morning, the weather app on my phone told me it was 16 degrees outside.  It’s official: winter has come to New York.

Today is a pajama day—a day to stay at home, drink hot beverages, watch TV, and make bread.

Oh, you didn’t think about that last part, did you?  “I don’t have a bread machine”, you say.  “I’ve never kneaded dough before”, you say.  “Making bread?  That’s hard”, you say.

In the immortal words of Shia LeBeouf, “No no no no no. No!”

Yes, I made that.  And you can make that, too, I say.

It all began last week when I saw this.  In 2006, Jim Lahey introduced Mark Bittman, and thousands of home cooks, to an exceptionally simple and effective way to make (& break) perfectly crisp, crusty bread at home.  The method requires a little bit of mixing and 24 hours of largely unattended time. The results are aromatic, delicious, and impressive!

No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/4 tsp. INSTANT yeast  — do not substitute with the active dry variety
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water (room temperature)

Tools:

  • a big bowl
  • 2 cotton—not terrycloth—towels (I used an old pillowcase, cut apart to make two “towels”)
  • really good oven mitts
  • a Dutch oven (cast iron, enamel or Pyrex all work)

Time Required:

  • 24 hours, largely unattended

Method:

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, and stir together until they are mixed thoroughly.  Add water, and mix everything with your fingers until all ingredients are incorporated. The dough will be wet and sticky.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest in a warm area of your home.

Sticky!

Now, find something to do. The dough needs to rest, undisturbed, for 18 hours.  (I went to sleep for the night, got up, went to a cooking class and met friends for coffee while my first dough rested.)

After 18 hours, your dough will be dotted with bubbles.  Gently pull the dough from the bowl and lay it on a floured working surface.  It will still be really sticky; don’t worry.  Dust the top of the dough with some flour, and fold the dough on itself once or twice.  Cover the dough — loosely — with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.

The dough takes a disco nap.

Lay a cotton towel (or pillow case) in a large bowl, and generously coat the towel with flour or cornmeal.  Using just enough flour to coat your hands, quickly shape the dough into a ball and place it on a towel.  Dust the top of dough with some more flour or cornmeal. 

Cover the bowl with another towel, and allow to rest for 2 hours (this is the last rise, I promise!).

About 45 minutes before the dough is done rising, preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  It will take about 15 minutes to heat up (unless you have a fancy oven that heats in seconds).  Place the covered (and empty!) Dutch oven into the 500 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the heated pot from the oven and carefullydrop the dough in (hot!). Give the pot a shake to help even out the dough as much as you can. Cover & bake for 30 minutes.

Hot pot!

Remove the cover & ooh and ahh at the beautiful bread that has formed in your pot. Bake uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove the pot from the oven and — using a serving spoon to nudge it loose — remove the loaf from the pan.

Hello. I'm really hot. I know you want me.

Marvel at the sturdy crust! Transfer to a regular kitchen towel and wrap.  Inhale the aromas!  Allow bread to rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Enjoy with butter, jam, red pepper honey and cheese or — like my boyfriend — all of the above.