Goth Panda

February 25, 2016

No-Knead Crusty White Bread

It has been a while since I have posted about bread baking. I still do it fairly often, and the easiest way I have found to maintain the habit is using this recipe. It makes three loaves at a time, and I bake all three and then freeze them until needed. Since we usually don’t eat more than a loaf a week, if that, I can bake once every three weeks and never run out of bread. Not to mention that the recipe itself is easy and not at all time-consuming, and the bread is delicious.

No Knead Bread

Look at that crumb!

This recipe comes from my old standby, King Arthur Flour, and the ratios are perfect. This is especially important for no-knead bread. If you are kneading, you can use experience and judgment to know when you have the right mix of bread and water in the dough, but for no-kneads this is not easy to know because the dough is so wet. It is especially important to weigh out the ingredients with a scale – I usually weigh down to the gram in order to get the balance right. But the upside is the bread is perfect every time.

No-Knead Crusty White Bread

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

680 g lukewarm water (24 oz)
907 g unbleached all-purpose flour (32 oz)
14 g (1 tbsp) salt
14 g (1-1/2 tbsp) instant yeast

Directions

Measure out all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or a large (6-quart), food-safe plastic bucket. I use my largest dough-rising bucket.

Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. I do this with my dough whisk until it gets too tough to stir. At that point, I reach in and stir it with my hands, folding the dough over itself until there are no streaks of flour and everything is incorporated.

Cover the bowl or bucket (I just place the lid on the top but don’t snap it on), and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

After it’s been out for 2 hours, put the bowl or bucket in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. The longer it is refrigerated, the more it will taste like sourdough. I usually bake all the loaves at once, but you can bake them one at a time as long as you use all of the dough within seven days.

When you’re ready to bake, remove the bucket and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour to make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off a chunk of the dough. I like to make 3 loaves with this dough, and I weigh each dough ball in a greased bowl to be around 17 ounces each.

Roll the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball as best as you can. Do the same with the other two loaves.

Place parchment paper on a half sheet pan, and put the loaves on it. Sift a light coating of flour over the top to keep the dough moist.

Let the dough rise for about 45 to 60 minutes. Preheat your oven to 450°F while the dough rests.

When you’re ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times.

The King Arthur Flour recipe has you add in a water tray for steaming the bread when you put it in the oven, but I usually skip that step. The steam tray will make the crust crispier, but I like it fine without.

Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown. I always check the internal temperature with my bread thermometer; you want it to be above 180 degrees.

Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Once it’s cool, I double-bag (bread bag and freezer bag) two loaves and put them in the freezer. The other loaf I leave out to eat, and put it in a plastic bag at room temperature.

August 31, 2014

New oven = super puffy cookies. I probably should have gotten one a long time ago.

New oven = super puffy cookies. I probably should have gotten one a long time ago.

February 14, 2014

Homemade Yogurt

I got a yogurt maker a while ago. The only problem with having a yogurt maker is now Mike wants homemade yogurt all the time. I thought that might be a problem before I got it. Sometimes I don’t remember to make it, and then he is disappointed. He says the homemade yogurt tastes fresher than store bought. I like it better, too, but I don’t eat nearly as much yogurt as he does.

Making homemade yogurt is pretty easy. Like bread baking, it takes a while to make, but most of the time is just waiting for it to ferment. There is not a lot of work involved.

First you measure out 42 oz of whole milk. We use organic. You do need a thermometer because you need to heat it up to 180 degrees.

Heating the Milk

Heating the Milk

Once it reached 180, it usually has a visible skin (which I discard), and some bubbles on the edges. Then you turn off the heat and wait for it to cool down. You can hurry this step along with an ice bath but I usually don’t bother.

You want it to be between 110 and 120 degrees, which is good for cultivating your active culture.

Cooling the Milk

In the meantime, you measure out 6 oz of starter yogurt. I once saw David Cross do a stand-up routine in which he made fun of his mom for saying she was making yogurt from scratch but that she had to start with yogurt. I felt bad for his mom, because it is true! You don’t so much make yogurt from scratch as multiply the yogurt you already have. We use Stonyfield Organic Whole Milk yogurt for this step. You can also buy powdered yogurt culture to use as a starter, but we haven’t tried that. I am concerned that it won’t turn out as good.

Starter Yogurt

When your milk is the right temperature, you take half a cup or so and whisk it into the starter yogurt to temper it.

Tempering the Yogurt

Then you can add the rest of the milk and whisk it all together.

My yogurt maker has individual 6 oz jars. You can also make it on big container if you have one that will fit under its lid. I have read plenty of ways people have made yogurt without an official yogurt maker, too, either using the stove or a crockpot. But I have only done it this way.

Filled Jars

After you fill your little jars, make sure the wipe them off. Otherwise there will also be yogurt on the outside of your jars, where you probably don’t want it.

In the Yogurt Maker

The time needed in the yogurt maker is pretty forgiving. I think we have done various times between 8 and 10 hours and it has all worked out fine. You can even leave the yogurt in the maker after the cycle ends for a few hours, and it will be ok.

Yogurt!

Once you have solid yogurt, you can pop the lids on and refrigerate. We usually make ours plain and unsweetened, but Mike adds different things before eating it: sugar, honey, vanilla, fruit. All of these work well. I haven’t tried adding sweetener to the milk before putting it in the maker. I think it can be done, but I am not sure how to do it.

February 3, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese with Buttery Crumbs

Mac and Cheese Done

This is one of the first recipes I made, many years ago when I was first trying to learn how to cook, and it has stuck with me because it is delicious. How can you turn away a recipe that requires one and a half pounds of cheese, and in addition announces the presence of “buttery crumbs” in the title?

I have made this many times, but usually for special occasions because it does take a while to make. You have to start it between 1-1/2 to 2 hours before you want to eat it, although the recipe does have a make ahead option, below. But it makes a lot, usually around 8 servings for us, so there are plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week. I like mine with hot sauce.

Mac and Cheese Before Baking

Before going in the oven

Macaroni and Cheese with Buttery Crumbs

Adapted from Food and Wine

5 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 c half-and-half or whole milk
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound Colby cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
1 pound rotini
3/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs (I usually use seasoned)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously spray or butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook over moderate heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the half-and-half and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add one-half of the Cheddar and Colby cheeses and cook over low heat, stirring, until melted. Stir in the mustard, nutmeg and cayenne; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain very well. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the cheese sauce and the remaining cheese and stir until combined. Spread the pasta in the prepared baking dish.

In a small glass bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Add the bread crumbs and stir until evenly moistened. Sprinkle the buttered crumbs over the macaroni and bake for 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

The assembled dish can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature and bake.