No-Knead Bread

No-Knead Bread

Whole Wheat No Knead Bread

White no-knead bread – golden baked!

A couple of years ago when mom was visiting from Baku, I wanted to proudly demonstate my new baking skills to her. She watched curiously expecting difficult techniques and methods but soon realized no specials skills were involved in the making  - I mixed a few ingredients together, never kneaded anything but stirred with a spoon, let the mixture rise, and plopped it into your a pot to send into the big oven. She was, however, amazed by what came out of the oven – a beautiful rustic golden loaf that she confirmed could beat any store bought bread out there. “This is just like the bread they baked in your grandpa’s  bakery!” she exclaimed happily.  I was even happier to hear that.

My maternal grandfather Najaf who I hear had a great business mind and loved baking, started a bakery in the 40s of the last century in the northwestern region of Balaken. The bread supplied the entire region with bread for many years. Sadly, the famous bakery  did not last too long after grandpa passed away. I was born a year later. I used to always ask my mom about the kinds of bread they made in the bakery and whether there was any recipe preserved as I wanted to recreate it. Alas the recipe was lost forever and nobody had it.

So all of a sudden this bread that I baked in CA became a connection. Mom said I didn’t need to look any futher and that this was the recipe. In my imaginary world I saw this tall big bold charismatic old man beaming with pride for the granddaughter he never met but who shared his passion for bread making and who actually made bread that looked and tasted like his. The granddaughter was beaming too. Ok, ok, before I drag you into my imaginary world any further let me tell you about the bread I baked.

No Knead Bread

This bread was made with half whole wheat half unbleached all-purpose flour – the possibilities are endless!

So what is this bread all about? Can you make it too and have your family beam with pride for your baking skills? You sure can. In fact I dare say this will be the easiest bread you will ever make in your entire life (bread  machines not counting). And you will love it so much that you will never buy bread from a store. Not only this bread is easy to make but it is real, it is rustic, it is fresh and it is home made and you know exactly what’s in it.

Whole Wheat No Knead Bread

And this is 100% whole wheat bread – cut and ready to be savored. Love it!

This bread, my friend, is called no-knead bread. It is the revolitionary bread that was published in New York Times back in 2006 based on the reipe from Jim Lahey from Sullivan Street Bakery. The recipe was on my to do list ever since and I finally gave it a try using the adaptation from my blogger friend Sofya’s wonderful blog. I never looked back. I’ve been in love with it ever since.  I’ve been baking this bread non-stop for the past 3 years.

As the name suggests, there is no going into the dough with hands kneading it for minutes until it is smooth. You leave the job to a spoon to do this. The rest is even easier.There are only a few ingredients you will need to make this bread – flour, salt, yeast and water. The original recipe is for white bread, but I’ve adapted it to bake whole wheat bread and loved the result. To make white bread, I use unbleached all-purpose flour, for whole wheat –  whole wheat four and a small amount of flaxseed meal.

So the simplest of doughs, a pot, a hot oven – and let the  baking begin!

Here’s how. Let’s start with whole wheat bread.

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Classic Dinner Rolls – Best Ever!

These days the family likes to hear “Dinner rolls are served!” more than “Dinner is served!” because they can’t get enough of homemade dinner rolls, especially when they are utterly, sinfully, ultimately good, like the ones made from the recipe below.

When the rolls are almost ready, the hungry members of the family line up in front of the kitchen waiting impatiently for me to pull them out of the piping hot oven. One is standing with a plate with butter, knife pierced through it, ready for action. Another is waiting with a bowl filled with quince preserve to slather on roll halves, and the other is just waiting to gobble the rolls up just like that, in all their glory. I want both the rolls and the dinner. That’s the kind of glutton I am. Dinner is frowned upon by the majority (not me) and the rolls are hastily devoured while they are still nice and warm. Everybody is happy and looking forward to the next batch of rolls. I look forward to both dinner rolls and dinner. I like them both.

Seriously, these dinner rolls are great. I try to contain myself from using superlatives of any nature unless something is really good but in this case I’ll let it out and scream – These Rolls Are the Best Eveeeeerrrrr! Pillow-soft and delicious, they disappear fast, so be alert.

Serve them with anything your heart desires – they are great with soups, stews, butter, jam, cream cheese, preserves of all sorts, you name it! They also  make perfect hamburger buns. These rolls are the best eveeeerrrr! What? Did I just say it again?

Classic Dinner Rolls

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma: Essentials of Baking

While I haven’t changed the amounts of ingredients in the recipe much (only the flour was slightly reduced), I did change the method of preparation a bit and have come up with my own tips so your dinner rolls come out better than you expect (that’s the kind of gal I am…ahem). I usually add wet ingredients to dry, and not the other way around as the original recipe suggests. The original recipe calls for the butter to be just at room temperature, which I though didn’t make it easy for the butter to blend with the rest of the ingredients, so I first melt and cool it then add to the batter.  Also, make sure your milk is not freezing cold – bring it to room temperature before adding it to the dough.  Otherwise the dough takes way long to rise and sometimes doesn’t rise at all (I’ve been there, trust me).You can even warm it up a little, but not much.

Makes 15 rolls

For the Dough:
1 package (2+1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/4 cup (2 fl oz / 60 ml) warm water (105-115F / 40-46C)
4 cups or more if needed, all-purpose flour (you will begin with 3 cups then add more as needed)
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup whole milk (8 fl oz/250 ml), at room temperature (important!)
6 tablespoons (3 oz/90 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, at room temperature (important!)

To Brush:
1 egg, lightly beaten

In a small bowl or a cup, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups of the flour, salt, sugar. Stir to mix.

Add the yeast mixture, milk,  butter, and eggs to the flour. Stir to mix with your hands.

Gradually add more flour if needed. Scrape the dough out of the bowl into a lightly floured work surface. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, dusting the work surface with flour to keep the dough from sticking, 5-7 minutes. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Don’t be tempted to add all of the flour at once as you may end up with tight dough. You may not need all of it.  The dough should be pleasant to touch. Form the dough into a ball, transfer it to a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, 1+1/2 – 2 hours.

Line a 12 X 17-inch (30 x 43-cm) rimless baking sheet with parchment (baking paper).

Punch the dough and turn it onto a clean work surface. Cut into 15 pieces with a sharp knife. Roll each dough piece your hand into a round ball, making sure its surface is smooth. Place the balls on the prepared pan, spacing them evenly, about 2 inches apart. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let them rise until puffy and pillow-soft when gently squeezed, 30-40  minutes.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375F (190C).

Brush the rolls lightly with the beaten egg. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately.

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