There are a lot of things in my life that take a lot of effort: Getting up in the morning (morning? does 4:37 count as morning?) without walking into my closed bedroom door, getting the Demon fed and dressed without losing my shit, thinking of tasty, creative and healthy meals to eat 7 days a week and not freaking when no one notices them, deciding on my daily schedule, staying up past 8 pm, etc. You get the picture: poor me. However, I am also really into making good food, which often requires a significant time investment. So when I discovered that the less effort you put into making bread, the better it tastes – well, you understand, this was a life-changing discovery. I’d go so far as to call it an epiphany except that I didn’t figure it out for myself. You can read a bit about the history here.
I initiated my no-knead revolution with the abbreviated version popularized by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois in their book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day because I thought that the original “NYT recipe” required far too much foresight: “Let’s see, if I need bread in 2 days, and a train is arriving that day, but 6 hours late, going 15 km/hour, I should start making this loaf today at 4 pm”. Yeah – I was a big fan of the quickie version for a long time, which requires a rising time of only about 5 hours. I would make a double batch once a week and it really didn’t require much effort. I adapted it all the time, adding seeds, nuts, and playing with different flours (whee!). But I finally realized one day that the bread tasted extremely yeasty. Which stood to reason, cause there was a ridiculous amount of yeast in it.
So recently, I was trying to duplicate an incredible walnut-rye sourdough that I
buybought at my local bakery (before Ben got allergic to nuts on Friday), and I fell back into discussions about no-knead techniques. Sari would have loved it. My experiments brought me back to the famous NYT recipe, which kept turning up in recipes I read about bread. I decided to give it a shot (I’m taking risks lately), and I haven’t looked back. After a few loaves, I tossed some buckwheat flour into the mix, and was so delighted by the beautiful rise, the airy-yet-chewy crumb filled with custardy holes, and the subtle, nutty buckwheat flavour. Little black specks of buckwheat on the inside and a golden, crackly crust. Easy as pie… no – pie is hard – it’s WAY easier than pie. True, it takes a little thinking ahead, but it’s worth it. Actual hands-on time is about 10 seconds so you can do it while you wait for your espresso machine to heat up.
Now here are some interesting facts about buckwheat I didn’t know. For one, it’s not wheat! It’s not even a grain. Poor buckwheat, it’s just a “pseudo-grain”. Its official status notwithstanding, buckwheat outperforms most “real” grains when it comes to being good for you. It’s almost a complete protein, is gluten-free, and has lots of vitamin B. It also “will grow on anything”, according to Tom Bilek, a Minnesota buckwheat farmer. I should give it a try since stuff that grows in our garden has to be able to grow on “anything”. Buckwheat is also a character on the Little Rascals who was subsequently impersonated by Eddie Murphy on SNL back in the good ol’ days of this show.
Buckwheat is strong-flavoured and since it’s not wheat, you can’t really use it on its own in place of flour. But it’s great added to other flours in pancakes, muffins, and yes – bread. The Demon readily devours buckwheat pancakes. I inwardly gloat (outwardly displaying no emotion) as I watch her eat them, thinking “you are eating protein, and you don’t know it!” Recently I was so bold as to add grated zucchini to her pancakes so not only did she get stealth protein, she got stealth veggies too. And lots of not-so-stealth maple syrup. She likes this pseudo-grain super-bread toasted, too, with strawberry jam or apple butter. Who wouldn’t?
No-Knead Buckwheat Bread
adapted from the infamous New York Times NKBread recipe
Start your prep the day before; the total time from mixing bowl to crispy brown loaf is about 21 hours! about 5 minutes of actual hands-on time, though.
What you need, apart from the ingredients:
- Parchment paper,
- a pot with a lid that can be put in the oven. Ideally, a small (3-5
pintquart! sorry!) cast-iron dutch oven. This is important for retaining moisture as the bread cooks. It results in a crackly crust and a beautiful crumb with lots of custardy holes.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp fine sea salt
1 2/3 cups water
Extra flour for dusting
- Mix all the dry ingredients together, then mix in the water. The dough will be wetter than normal bread dough, and too sticky to work with your hands. Cover the bowl with plastic and let it sit in a warmish area for at least 12 but recommended 18 hours, or until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough has risen (The long rise is how you can get a loaf out of such a small amount of yeast, and how you can get away without kneading. The longer it sits, the more complex the flavour of the bread).
- Prepare a piece of parchment paper about 40 X 40 cm or big enough that it will line your pot. Dust it liberally with cornmeal or flour.
- Liberally flour a work surface. Flour your hands too. Dump the dough out onto the flour and, working quickly, fold the dough over on itself once or twice.
- Form the dough into a sort of ball and plop it seam-side down onto the prepared parchment paper. Dust the top liberally with corn meal or flour. Cover again with a piece of plastic or a clean tea towel and set it aside to rise again for 2 hours.
- 45 minutes before you are going to bake, pre-heat your oven to 450 F. Place the pot inside the oven to heat up.
- After the 2 hour rise, take the pot out of the oven, pick up the parchment paper with the dough on it, and carefully place it in the pot. The paper will wrinkle a little but that’s ok. With a sharp knife or razor, slash the top once or twice in a nice pattern. Put the lid on and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Take off the lid and continue to bake until the bread is deep brown, 15-ish more minutes. For me it usually only takes about 10 minutes, so keep an eye on it during this time. When it’s done, take it out of the pot using the parchment paper as a sort of basket, and allow it to cool on a rack.
Now, the hard part: allow the bread to cool before you slice it! This really makes a difference in the texture.
There are so many ways to adapt this recipe. Playing with different kinds of flours ( A cup of rye is nice in place of whole wheat/buckwheat), & additions (I’ve had great success adding 1/2 cup scottish or stone-cut oats to the mix before the 1st rise, also a cranberry-pecan version that was a big hit, until Ben suddenly got a wicked case of hives and decided he’s allergic to pecans), I have never really had a bad loaf of no-effort bread.
Oh – and it toasts like a charm, too!