Today is January 12th, which is only a few days into the middle of the month. According to a University of Scranton study, 19% of people who make New Year’s resolutions will keep them, while most will give up on them by mid-January.
When it comes to making resolutions, people don’t change much. The big four that appear year after year are: lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, and improve your finances.
I made a lot of resolutions and kept few. For the most part, it’s a lack of commitment on my part. I am bored and I quit. This year I chose to do something different. Rather than one of the Big Four, I’m going to look for something that might actually be possible – make the perfect loaf of bread.
I’ve always admired those perfect breads that are on display at the McLeod County Fair. Perfectly golden with a fine crumb, this is the stuff of dreams. Needless to say, my past experiences with bread making have not gone well. While they sometimes taste good, the breads generally didn’t rise much or were too heavy.
When I started my baking quest, I turned to the internet to find out what the most successful recipe was. The most popular option is “No-Knead Bread,” a recipe created by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery. Mark Bittman adapted the recipe for The New York Times, triggering a tsunami of interest. Published in November 2006, it turned out to be one of the most popular recipes to ever print in the newspaper and garnered over 16,000 comments.
I chose to follow Lahey’s recipe, which requires a covered container in which to bake the bread. I asked local potter Tom Wirt about this. He thought it was around 2007 when he and Betsy Price, founders of Clay Coyote Pottery, first heard of a baker.
“We first did this in Coyote when Roger and Rita Tiede, new residents of Hutchinson (Roger has since passed away), came over and asked us for a straight sided pan and didn’t tell us what it was for. “, Wirt recalls. “Two or three days later, they came in with this wonderful loaf of fresh bread, made in this pan, but it only filled about half of it. So I said, “We can make a new product with a base and a cover that would be sized for this loaf of bread.” And we did and it was still one of our most popular sellers.
If I wanted to be successful I felt I had to jump in with both feet so I bought a baker from Wirt. With my new baker sitting on the counter, I scoured the internet for tips on making no-knead bread. Just to let you know, there are a lot of tips and variations. My best advice is to stick with the original. Wirt included Lahey’s recipe when I got my baker, so I left with that.
I have always been a better cook than a baker. I think it’s because I tend not to follow directions exactly as written. I knew I was going to have to tackle it if I wanted to be successful.
I am in an instant messaging group with several women who cook and bake. When I mentioned my baking quest, one of them replied that she does it quite often and that it is easy. I thought, “Of course.”
When it came time to bake bread, I followed the instructions that Mrs. Mooney, a home teacher, had stuck in my head. I read the recipe a few times and put all the ingredients together before starting. I used cup measurements rather than metric. Serious bakers say the metric is more accurate. I leave it up to you to decide what works best.
I mixed my dough. It was dry so I added more water. It came together but it wasn’t as loose as it should be according to the photos I saw online. Never mind. We’ll see what happens.
I covered the bowl and put it on the counter to rise overnight. After 18 hours I checked it and low and here it had risen and there were air bubbles like the recipe says. Rather than using napkins as the recipe says, I used parchment paper which was mentioned in the bakers’ comments. I used it for the short 15 minute rest then the two hour climb.
I set the timer for 1-1 / 2 hours and when it went off I put the bread baker in the oven to heat up. I separated the lid from the casserole dish. Set the timer for 30 minutes and wait. When it went out, I opened the oven and took out the rack. I lifted the parchment paper with the dough and put it in the casserole dish. I used an oven mitt to put the lid on and pushed the whole thing back into the oven for 30 minutes. When the timer went off, I took the cover off and let it brown for 15 minutes.
When I opened the oven, it was a moment to take. I removed the pan and lifted the bread and onto a wire rack to cool. I couldn’t help but marvel at it. It was the nicest loaf of bread I have ever made. After letting it cool for 30 minutes, I cut a slice, buttered it, and took a bite. It was as good as it looked.