The New York Times’ No-Knead Bread recipe has become my Moby Dick. It’s perfection always manages to escape me as I feel myself getting closer.
But then, recently, I realized something. The science of baking bread – coaxing a living organism to life in hopes that it will make your mound of dough rise, then going through processes of resting and more waiting – it’s just not exact. Baking bread on the top of a mountain is totally different from baking in my kitchen, or in my kitchen on a humid day, etc. If baking bread is a metaphor for life, then I need to stop reading the directions so closely. The dough will rise when it’s good and ready. The bread will become the loaf it’s destined to be, no matter how hard you try to control the various environmental factors.
If you labor through the journey, and the destination isn’t really what you expected, should you not still eat it? Of course you should eat it! Preferably in a nice sandwich.
Celebrating my no-knead bread epiphany, I made the loaf again, on the top of a mountain in Virginia, where the winds outside draped snow drifts against our cabin walls and the snow fell in tiny balls – too cold to become pretty, unique snowflakes. I used an old-timey cast-iron Dutch oven that Grant picked up at some dubious junk shop years ago. I scrubbed it, seasoned it and hoped for the best.
Even after stoking the fire orb with extra hickory logs, I could never find that perfect place where the dough could rise for 12-18 hours in a consistent temperature. Again, I hoped for the best. The closest bread grocer was 45 minutes away.
So my little ball of love-hate turned into a pretty ball of bread that was a bit of a runt, and awkward to make sandwiches out of, but still tasted delicious.
If you have a favorite bread recipe, please share! I’m taking on challenges!
I made Anadama bread this weekend, and its one of our favorites. By the way, the name suppposedly came from a farmer whose wife, Anna, fed him cornmeal mush morning and night. One day, he was so sick of it that he grabbed the pot of mush, added yeast, flour, and molasses, and made it into a loaf, the whole while muttering, “Anna, damn her!”
That is hilariously awesome!