Monday, December 11, 2006

Kneading is my Meditation

No, no, I'm not going to be one of the birds piping the virtues of that fabulous looking no-knead bread from Jim Lahey that is EVERYWHERE on the blogs these days - but I will admit, it does look gorgeous. No people - I'm afraid this bread here calls for a little upper-arm work-out.

I'm a self-proclaimed home baker. Not quite a Bakerina ('cause face it, who would be able to live up to the Bakerina?), but I try to make sure we never have to buy bread, unless we feel like something I don't know how to achieve myself at home (that would, coincidentally and ironically, be something like the wonderfully hole-y and slightly tough to the teeth-looking no-knead bread) I not only like baking my own bread for the whole "we're providing for ourselves here"-mentality - but I actually like the job itself. It's strangely comforting and relaxing to me.

A long, loooooong, time ago, I used to do yoga. I don't remember exactly how I ended up in a yoga class, but I think it was because there was some classes being held at the gym I was enrolled in at the time, and I guess I thought I might as well try it out, as I do with so many things in life. Initially, I just liked it for all of the stretching and the full-body workout (I did an Ashtanga-type class). I liked the discipline - that it was actually possible to cheat in almost every position, but the only one that would suffer from it was yourself. I liked seeing how my body would step across the limits I thought it had already set, from one class to another. I liked not concentrating on nothing but my breathing and the next move I had to make my body make.

Every class was ended with a five minute meditation sequence. Lying flat on the floor on our backs, our teacher would talk us through every little inch of our bodies, inside and out. At first I thought it a bit ridiculous, but after a while, I learned that as hard as it was to let everything else out, just as giving it was when you actually accomplished it. It wasn't easy, and four times out of five, I didn't succeed - but the times I did? Woa. That's when I started missing it whenever I wasn't able to go to a class.

These days, meditation - or yoga for that matter - is scarce. I'm not even sure I did it right back then. But if there is ever a time I feel sort of the same calm and tranquility, the same kind of focusing on a single thing, that I got from lying there on a thin mattress on the hardwood floor, it would be in my kitchen. It doesn't really matter what I'm doing, but the sheer act of concentrating on nothing but picking the leaves from a couple of parsley stalks, stirring a risotto or (even!) doing the dishes, has an effect on me that is similar to that from yoga class. The action that does it best is probably kneading bread. The constant focus on stretching, folding, gently punching, turning again, puts me in a state of calmness unlike many others. So I'd go as far as to say that not only is this bread good for your stomach - it's also good for your mind.

TyvenKokkensHansKoneOgHendesElsker's (TheThiefTheCookHisWifeAndHerLover's) Malt Bread
- what do you know, I'm going crazy with recipes from the chefs and restaurants I know! This one is from a place I've worked at, on and off, for the last 6 years. I've eaten it almost every time I was there, spread with plenty of salted butter, or dipped into their fantastic béarnaise (they have a lot of stairs that I was running up and down all night, so eating béarnaise was totally justifiable!) It wasn't until recently ioccurreded to me that I had to get the recipe and bake it myself. The hardest thing in doing that was getting a hold of the malt flour/powder - I ended up getting it from Specialkøbmanden, who was kind enough to make a special order for me.

makes 4 medium sized boules

500g. yoghurt
80 g. salt
16 g. malt powder (flour)
24 g. yeast
1000 g. water
600 g. spelt flour
1600 g. durum wheat flour (tipo 00)

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the yoghurt. Mix the salt, malt powder, spelt flour and 3/4 of the durum wheat flour. Add to the water/yeast/yoghurt mixture - if you think it needs more flour before you can start kneading, add it. When ready, turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead for 10 minutes, gradually adding more durum wheat flour if need be. Once you're done kneading (and meditating), transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 8 hours (up to 15 should be fine, too)

When you want to bake the breads, take the dough out of the fridge and leave for half an hour at room temperature. Turn it out onto your worktop, and divide in 4 equal portions. Shape the breads into boules by tucking the dough from the sides aunderneathith itself. Leave to rise for two hours.

Half an hour before you're ready to bake the breads turn your oven to 260*C. Dust the breads with a little flour and slash them all. Put into the oven for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200*C and bake until done, approximately 20 minutes more.

But that no-knead bread does look good - perhaps I could just sit for ten minutes and stare at it proving?;-)


Cathy said...

oh does that look good! It has a couple of hard-to-find ingredients for this parts of the world (00 flour for one), but I just did a search and it looks like there are sources on this side of the ocean, so maybe after Christmas do a little meditating of my own. :)

Pille said...

Lovely bread, Zarah Maria!
I haven't jumped on the no-knead-bread bandwagon either, because I find kneading relaxing and stress-releasing, too:)
Specialkøbmanden is a good shop for quirky ingredients - thanks for recommending it to me when I was in town!

Anonymous said...

How about using malt syrup instead of the powder thing?

From Camilla Plum:
(Sorry guys, it´s in danish)

"Maltsirup er et gammeldags produkt som bruges til rugbrød, og andre brød, i marinader til kød, slik, øllebrød, og som generelt sødestof. Malt indeholder en mængde enzymer der nedbryder protein og fungerer som kødmørner. Det betyder at man ikke skal komme for meget i sit rugbrød, som så klatter totalt sammen, men lidt er godt både for smagen og hævningen. I marinader til mindre møre kødstykker er maltsirup fantastisk.

Maltsirup er fremstillet af indkogt malturt. Malt er fugtet, spiret og tørret byg, der knuses og koges med vand til malturt der er råstoffet til både øl, malteddike, maltsirup og whisky.

Maltningen betyder at en stor del af stivelsen i byggen omdannes til sukker, som gør maltsirup til en sødmefyldt sag med en meget karakteristisk smag.

Maltsirup købes enten i Norge hvor det spises som opbyggelig børnenæring eller i helsekostbutikker hvor der fås flere fine økologiske varianter.

Øllebrød er tilsyneladende gledet helt ud af vores bevidsthed som noget man selv kan fremstille. Det er nu ret synd for det er godt at få fyldt maven med varm øllebrød en kold morgen og børn er vilde med det. Jeg laver den ofte med porter for at få endnu mere smag, men man kan nøjes med den mildere smag fra en pils. Maltsiruppen giver endnu mere og rundere maltsmag, en bombe af byg og rug der gør godt helt ned i tæerne.

Det er så simpelt som noget."


Anonymous said...

Gorgeous! Nothing like fresh home-made bread! Wish I could taste a piece!

Stephanie said...

That is a gorgeous loaf of bread.

And I'm like you...I desperately WANT to do yoga/meditate, but I know myself to well. I just can't free my mind enough to do.

Not that I have the time!

Tea said...

I agree with you about the kneading--I wouldn't want to give it up! It's so theraputic I find.

Beautiful bread.

Tanna said...

Zarah Maria how did I miss seeing this post. That is beautiful bread! Lovely really.
And you really have it with the kneading, it is a meditative process opening up a channel within myself.
The no knead on the other time produces a crust like nothing I have ever had come out of my oven. I'm still playing around with it and not sure where I'll end with it.

joey said...

I totally agree with you about how cooking, and baking, and especially kneading and baking bread, is so relaxing and therapeutic! I do it to de-stress...especially bread baking :) There is something about working with your hands that calms and soothes your mind and soul :) Your bread looks wonderful by the way!

Anonymous said...

Hey Zarah!
I'm writing to you in English, so more than just us two Danish foodbloggers will understand! Yes...I've created a blog myself...with you as my mentor:-)
Not so fancy and delicious yet, but it will come:-)
Talk to you soon!

Zarah Maria said...

Hi Cathy! This bread is definitely worth sourcing ingredients for - but if you can't find 00 flour, I wouldn't hold it against you if you used regular bread flour. You might get a slightly different texture, but it will be good, I'm sure!

Hi Pille! You of anyone should know Specialkøbmanden, tee-hee!

Hi Mette! Thanks for the info, I remember reading the same, more or less, in Camilla Plum's Bread book. I'm sure you could use malt syrup instead - I was just determined to find the other stuff, 'cause heck, when the restaurants can get it, why can't it be accesible to us regular folks?! If you give it a go with the malt syrup, let me know how it turns out!

Hi Dianka! I agree - nothing like it!

Hi Stephanie! shhh. Don't tell anyone - I really don't have the time, but I think it will be good for me, so I have to make the time for it - I just signed up for a starting course at the local ashtanga school, starting after New Year - I can't wait. Besides, that would be a great New Year resolution, wouldn't it? To do something for myself?

Hi Tea! Therapeutic indeed - and thanks for the kind words.

Hi Tanna! I know, I will have to try the no-knead bread - it looks too good to pass... I'll just knead another bread, too :-)

Hi Joey! Thank you! And you know I agree, don't you!

Hi Anne! Yay, I can't wait to keep up with your blog! Let me know if you need a hand with anything at all, and I'll see what I can do!

Kristen said...

Kneading bread is such a stress reliever for me too. I alternate between kneading recipes and bread recipes calling for my ABM, depending on my mood, time, and the need to de-stress.
Your loaves look lovely!

bakerina said...

Oh, Zarah, honey, you give me way too much credit, especially when I disappear for weeks at a time and don't say hi nearly as often as I should. Thank you. :)

And thank you for giving me the courage to step up and say it: I haven't tried the Jim Lahey bread, either! It does look wonderful, and Jim Lahey shares the no-knead, gluten-development-through-lengthy-rise ethos of Dan Lepard (whose bread is so good it makes me giddy), but I have to say, right now I'd rather be making your heavy-duty workout bread. I love a good malty loaf.

Happy New Year, dearest Zarah. I'm so glad we got to meet last year! If you come back to New York, I promise to be your official Defender of the Purse. ;)