I believe it's alright to eat any kind of food in moderation. I have no qualms about eating one or two cookies each day, or enjoying a slice of bread with dinner. Instead of counting calories and swearing off certain foods altogether, I try to balance the good with the bad.
When I occasionally go overboard (read: Christmas cookie season, and the day my yearly order of Girl Scout Cookies are delivered) I offset my indulgent behavior by cutting back on sweets the following week. Most of the time I have to keep an eye on my cookie intake, since I tend to bake a lot. But lately I've also had to keep tabs on my bread consumption. No, I didn't get a bread maker, I finally perfected my favorite recipe for No-Knead Bread.
Two years ago Mark Bittman single-handedly revolutionized the baking world when he published Jim Lahey's recipe for No-Knead Bread. Upon his declaration that everyone could kiss away hours of tedious hand work, thousands of home cooks happily dusted off their cast-iron pots, committed to lives of thievery - snatching creuset knobs out of window displays - and popped their un-kneaded dough into the oven without a care in the world. Of course, I was doing this right along with everyone else, (except for stealing part - my knob was a gift from my friend Jeanne). I loved the ability to bake bread while hardly breaking a sweat. I also enjoyed the fact that Bittman's revised bread baking process fit into my then professional workday schedule. I would simply leave the dough to rise in the morning when I left to work and bake it at night after dinner.
Over time I've worked on several flavor variations and even kept a few in my permanent binder. Recently, at the suggestion of a friend, I made this flavor in order to take advantage of the fresh rosemary in the garden. If this ingredient pairing tempts you in the least I highly suggest you make some. Right. Now. To say that my family and I enjoyed this bread is an understatement. We devoured it like hungry peasants on the side of the road during a famine. Our consumption was decidedly not an example of eating in moderation.
Now that I've made this a few times we've learned how to exercise a bit of restraint: it takes us 36 hours to polish off a loaf, instead of the initial 12. I also have worked out any kinks in the recipe to make sure the flavor is consistently light with a hint of bright citrus. The rosemary adds a wonderful floral tone to the dough, making it delicious to eat with a spread of butter or homemade apricot jam. Now that I'm working from home I've mastered making this during my daughter's naptime. I simply begin the dough in the evening after she goes to bed and let it sit overnight. Then, during naptime the next day, I finish the remaining steps and bake it in the oven. This way it is always ready for a late afternoon snack. After that I wrap it up and put it away for breakfast - if we can wait that long for our next slice.
Rosemary & Lemon No-Knead Bread
adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe for No Knead bread
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. active dry yeast
1 5/8 c. lukewarm water
1 3/4 t. Kosher salt
1 1/2 t. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 t. fresh lemon zest
1. In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt, rosemary and lemon zest. Add water and stir until all ingredients are blended. The dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours, or until the size has almost doubled and the surface it dotted with bubbles.
2. Remove dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured cutting board. Sprinkle dough with flour and fold it over itself once or twice. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap, allow to rest for 15 minutes.
3. Flour your hands and quickly shape the dough into a bowl. Coat the cutting board very generously with flour and place it seam side down on the board. Dust the top with flour and cover it with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger. This takes about 2 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 450 and place EMPTY 2 3/4 qt. cast-iron (I use a Le Creuset) pot in the oven. Allow to warm in the oven for 30 minutes. Then, remove the pot and brush the inside with olive oil. Transfer the bread dough from the cutting board and place it in the greased pot. Place it in the oven with the cover on it and allow it tbake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the cover and allow it to bake for 15-20 more minutes, or until the loaf is browned. Then, remove pot from the oven and place on a wire rack. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Then, remove the loaf and allow to cool completely.
Naptime Recipe Props: The recipe for No-Knead bread is foolproof and delicious. I highly suggest you all experiment with your own flavors to find your own family's favorite(s).
Naptime Stopwatch: The longest part about this recipe is the waiting for the dough to rise. I spent about a total of 15 minutes actually working with the dough from start to finish.
Naptime Reviews: As I said, my family devours this bread. There is definitely something about homemade bread that always trumps store-bought.