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finally cleared driveway to the street!

finally cleared driveway to the street!

Last Friday night, we in central Connecticut got somewhere between two and three feet of snow. I waited patiently all day for it to pick up momentum, but it wasn’t until after sunset that the action really began. It was a perfect storm (for us — others, who lost power were not so fortunate), perfectly beautiful, perfectly peaceful. Yes, there was a fair amount of cleanup afterward — our only exit from the house was through the garage since the 33″ on snow prevented us from opening our doors.

can't you just smell it?

can’t you just smell it?

the perfect bread for the perfect blizzard

So Saturday we spent the better part of the day trying to extricate ourselves from the house. A major victory was when we cut a swath from the garage and made it to the street. On cold days like this (temps in low single digits), warm, homemade bread soothes the soul and loads the carbs. But what do you do when you don’t have time to make bread? Answer: you make No-knead bread. I take no credit for this recipe. It appeared a few years ago on the New York Times and is credited to Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. There are lots of other recipes out there, but I can vouch for this one. I was skeptical my first time, but this bread is everything it claims to be. There is little to no work involved, no kneading, and close to 100% success rate. You simply stir the ingredients together (flour, water, little bit of yeast, and salt), cover it, and let those microbes take their time to create a crusty, sourdough-tasting boule.

so what’s the deal?

The “deal” is that you trade work for time. All this bread asks of you is a little advance timing. While I’ve been known to rush the process and still enjoy a wonderful result, this dough likes anywhere from fourteen to twenty hours to rise. The baking method is a bit unconventional, and key to the process. Rather than baking in the typical loaf pans in a 350 degree oven, you’ll bake this loaf in a preheated Dutch Oven at 450 degrees, covered  for most of the baking time. I use a cast-iron, enamel clad Dutch Oven. And don’t grease the pan.

So Friday night — taking a chance that we wouldn’t lose power — I took the five minutes required to quickly stir up the ingredients. Dinner on Saturday night after a day in the snow featured this warm, flavorful bread with pools of olive oil for dipping. Honestly, it didn’t matter if there were anything else for dinner.

Even if you don’t bake bread, give this a try. It really is as easy as it claims!

no-knead bread recipe

Also see YouTube video by Mark Bittman

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

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 lid or plastic wrap. I put the dough in my Dutch Oven and put the lid on. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18 to 20, at warm room temperature.

you don't really need to use a mixer for this. often I simply stir the ingredients in the same bowl I use to raise the dough

you don’t really need to use a mixer for this. often I simply stir the ingredients in the same bowl I use to raise the dough

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. It may be quite sticky, but don’t worry. Just use a bit more flour on your hands. And don’t try to knead it, just fold it over a few times to squeeze out some of the air bubbles. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

dough in bowl, ready to raise. sometimes -- depending upon the moisture -- dough will be softer than this, don't worry, that works too.

dough in bowl, ready to raise. sometimes — depending upon the moisture — dough will be softer than this, don’t worry, that works too.

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. Again, don’t worry if it’s stickier than your usual bread dough. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel 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.

when raised, dough will be soft with surface covered with air bubbles

when raised, dough will be soft with surface covered with air bubbles

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,  ceramic) in oven as it heats. 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. Cool on a rack.

the finished product!

the finished product!

the view from my window

The predicted snow came. Twenty-five inches in my part of Connecticut. It was, and still is, beautiful. A friendly snow, as January blizzards go. While the volume was substantial, it was really rather benign–light and fluffy, little blowing or drifting.  But it did slow things down a bit, and that is almost always a good thing.

a winter treat — anytime 

dig in! granola, milk, and last summer's blueberries

How do you spend a gift “snow day”? One of my favorite places is in the kitchen, making something warm and hearty, something I might not have time for on a more scheduled day. Granola. Why not? It takes a bit of time to make, mostly because you need to bake it slowly at a low temperature. It’s aroma fills the house with a feeling similar to what you achieve with a baked apple pie: sweet warmth, goodness, security.

It’s not just a winter treat at all; I enjoy it year round. It’s full of good-for-you ingredients with high doses of fiber and Omega 3 fatty acids. It’s not exactly a “diet” food since much of what makes it nutritious also adds calories and fats (like the nuts), but you can take comfort that there are few hollow calories in this granola.

getting the goods

Go to your local health food, or healthier food store and raid their bulk items aisle. Not only will you get better products (a good variety of organic options), you’ll most likely spend a lot less than buying the prepackaged varieties.

granola recipe

Preheat oven to 250°

Spray large roaster pan with oil spray — I like to use olive oil in pump bottle.

Mix in a large mixing bowl the following ingredients in these approximate quantities:

  • 4 C. regular (organic) rolled oats — NOT instant or quick cooking
  • 2 C. raw sunflower seeds
  • 2 C. raw wheat germ (toasted will work, but raw is better)
  • 1 C. ground flax seeds — must grind or crush to release oil, which contains the good nutrients

    I use a thoroughly cleaned coffee mill to grind the flax

  • 1 teas. salt
  • 4 C. roughly chopped nuts de jour. I love nuts and load my granola with them, but I use whatever I have on hand: walnuts, almonds, pecans usually — heavy on the walnuts since they are so high in Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • 2 Tbsp. pure vanilla
  • 4 Tbsp. water
  • ½ C. mild flavored olive oil or other good quality vegetable oil
  • 1 — 1 ½ C. honey
Mix all ingredients until thoroughly moistened. The order of the ingredients isn’t really important, but I put in the dry ingredients first, then add the oil and liquids. The mixture should be sticky and moist, but not drippy. If it feels too dry, add a bit more honey and oil.

no particular order needed for adding the ingredients

Pour into prepared baking pan; bake at 250° for 30 minutes.

mix ingredients very well

Check and stir, then pat down softly. Continue to bake another hour to hour and a half, check, stir, and pat down every 15 to 20 minutes. Check it more often once it starts to brown a bit. You’ll find that the browning process is not linear. Once it begin to brown, it will brown or burn quickly.

check the granola often at the end, should be light brown around the edges

When done, remove from the oven. If you like chunky granola, let it cool before you stir it, and it will form big hunks. Once cool, add raisins, craisins, dates or other dried fruit, if desired.  Keep in air-tight container.

store in airtight container

The granola should easily keep fresh on the shelf in an air-tight container for four to six weeks. If you need to keep it longer than that, divide the finished batch and store part in the freezer until ready to use.

When using the frozen granola, remove from freezer and thaw completely before opening the container. That will prevent moisture from creeping into the thawing granola.

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