How it Started

When I was 12, I found a blank ledger book. It was a treasure beyond treasure to me. I debated and debated about what to do with it - it had to be something special. Finally I decided to make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see in my life and then cross them off when I had accomplished them. At first they were simple things, but soon I was adding dramatic things, impossible things, but things still worth dreaming about. Oddly enough, putting them on the list somehow made them attainable. I have kept the book and updated the list my entire life. Here is the story behind some of the entries - successes and failures, embarrassing and proud moments, laughter and tears - the ridiculous to the sublime!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bake Perfect Loaf of French Bread - DID IT

I don't think there is anything on this list that suffered as many failures on the way to crossing it off the list as baking the perfect loaf of French bread.  I kneaded, mixed, folded hundreds of times. I baked gummy loaves, crumbly loaves, dense loaves, dry loaves... oh, sure we ate them, but they were not right. The operative word in this item is "Perfect."  It had to have a thin, crispy crust with a soft pliable interior filled with big holes - no crumbs just flakes of crust could appear on your plate.  It had to be cuttable and tearable - spell-check hates both of those words, but I stand by them.

Last year a friend sent me a recipe for a No-Knead bread from a website called Steamy Kitchen.  I shrugged it off.  How could you possibly turn out a traditional loaf of bread by such an untraditional prep method?  But eventually I gave it a try.  The results were amazing.  Not perfect, but as close as I had ever come. I tweaked the recipe a couple times until I got it.  The PERFECT LOAF, at least the way I like it.  Here's the original website
My "tweaks" included adding a touch more salt, a bit of powdered milk, some honey, and lightly sprinkling the top with sea salt crystals before it goes into the oven.  I've experimented with adding fresh herbs to the dough as well - equally yummy.

Anyone can do this.  Unlike the professional recipes you don't have to steam your oven, spray water on things, use a cooking stone, or spend hours kneading and fussing over it. By cooking it inside a large kettle with a lid on it, you trap the steam and that keeps the crust flaky and the interior moist.  Amazing!


KellyB said...

I just discovered this recipe a month or so ago and I am now OBSESSED with it- I bake at least one loaf a week and have received SO many compliments on it- it tastes just as good as "artisan" bread. Awesome!!

Kathy Gleaves said...

I currently bake it in a round, enamel, cast-iron kettle, but I'm looking for an oval so I can bake a "football" shaped loaf too.

SteamyKitchen said...

Congrats! Beautiful bread Kathy! Here are more ideas - take a look at the "stecca" recipe on my site -embed olives in and make long loaves.

I also love to sprinkle with lots of cheese just right before it enters into oven.

For longer shape, I use my Pampered Chef stoneware roasting pan that includes a domed lid.

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