Thursday, May 23, 2013

Almost No Knead Bread with Parmesan, Rosemary and Walnuts

#TwelveLoaves May 2013 

It has been ages since I have done much baking, let alone participated in any baking challenges or link-ups, and suddenly May brought two opportunities. May's theme for #TwelveLoaves is "share your favorite bread... any bread you'd like to bake", and that's an invitation too tempting to pass up. Interesting too that I'd recently discovered another group that bakes together each month, SourdoughSurprises which focuses on creative sourdough recipes. Was this a sign? Sign or not, it was definitely time to get busy baking again and share one of our favorite loaves. CakeDuchess featured an amazing Mexican Hot Chocolate Bread for her creation, but after my Mexican Chocolate Sourdough Brownies (link) it was time to bake a non-sweet favorite . I went with a savory loaf, a "Sort of Sourdough, Almost No Knead Bread" with Parmesan cheese shreds, fresh Rosemary needles and a generous handful of Walnuts.  

Ignoring everything written about cooling down a freshly-baked boule before slicing off a piece, we can't resist the heavenly aroma and make a serious dent in this loaf within minutes of it coming out of the oven. I love, really love, a thick slice warmed or toasted, spread with a smear of butter and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. RL prefers his grilled for a bruschetta topped with a soft cheese and lingonberry jam or ginger marmalade. Days old slices have made a flavorful base for panzanella salad, savory bread puddings, even French toast and stratas. Toasted croutons and bread crumbs are tasty last-resort options, but the loaf is usually long gone before it comes to that.

The sort-of-sourdough claim comes from adding beer and vinegar AND/OR a portion of sourdough starter to a typical no-knead recipe for  an extra flavorful tang, or sometimes just because it's time to feed my starter and use it in something. After the l-o-n-g first rise, it's time to be creative and add an assortment of savory elements. For this loaf I added my favorites, drifts of freshly grated parmesan cheese, just a bit of rosemary from the garden and a hearty scattering of walnuts. Mmmm, just thinking about it makes me hungry. Other variations have featured briny olives, stronger cheeses like feta or stilton, onions or even bacon, but I keep coming back to parmesan, rosemary and walnuts as the perfect flavor partners.

If you haven't made a loaf of No Knead Bread yet, give it a try, and DO check out the amazing recipes from other #Twelve Loaves bakers each month.

Photo: add savory elements after the first rise and knead to thoroughly incorporate

Photo: resting on parchment in a skillet for the second rise

Photo: fresh from the oven with a crisp crust and tantalizing aroma

Photo: check out the open crumb and crispy crust - oh, yum!
Almost No Knead Sort of Sourdough Bread
with Walnuts, Parmesan and Rosemary
recipe found on Seattle PI's website, attributed to Cook's Illustrated version of the Jim Lahey recipe whick inspired countless variations found all over the web!

3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
7 ounces water at room temperature
3 ounces mild-flavored lager beer
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 cup sourdough starter, optional (note: my starter is quite "stiff")
  1. Whisk flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add water, beer, vinegar and sourdough starter (if using). Using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl, until a shaggy ball forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. (We're talking typical Seattle room temperature here)
  2. Lay a 12- to 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside a 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. Move the dough to a lightly floured work surface, add any optional ingredients and knead a dozen times using a dough scraper to help. The dough will be sticky, but resist the urge to add a lot of additional flour. Shape the dough into a ball by pulling opposite edges into middle. Transfer the dough ball, seam-side down, to the parchment-lined skillet. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with nonstick cooking spray and drape loosely over the dough. Let it rise at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, roughly 2 hours in a warm kitchen.
  4. 30 minutes before baking, adjust an oven rack to a low but not lowest position, place a 6-to-8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on the rack, and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
  5. Lightly flour the top of the dough and use a sharp knife to make one deep slit, 6-inches long, 1/2-inch deep along the top of dough, or slash an X if you prefer. Carefully remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid. Pick up the dough by lifting the parchment overhang and lower into the pot, allowing any excess parchment to hang over pot's edge. Cover the pot with its heated lid and place in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees F and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake uncovered until loaf is deep brown in color, about 20 to 30 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 210 degrees. Carefully use the parchment to lift and remove bread from pot; transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours... if you can wait that long to taste this delicious loaf.

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