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
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?;-)