Quick(ish) No-Knead Bread


This is my current favourite loaf, bar none. It’s easy to make – though the ‘quick’ part of the title definitely needs to be taken in context – but the end result is bread that’s full of flavour and texture and, most importantly, those air-pockets that fill up so delightfully with butter, jam, soup, or whatever else you put the slice on or in. It’s also so appealing to look at, beautifully rustic and craggy. And the smell! Well, that’s a given.

No-Knead-Baked-CLose

The recipe comes from the New York Times, and shortens the usual no-knead time from 12 hours to just 4. I’ve even cut the initial rising time back to three hours, on a warm day, and it’s still come out really well. Did I mention I love this recipe?

I have begun to diverge from the recipe a little over time, even though you’d think there wasn’t much room to stray from the simple path it lays out. I keep the ingredients as directed, and while I sometimes monkey with the initial rise time, I generally leave it for four hours – it takes so little time to mix those ingredients together that you can get it started quickly, then go about the next four hours of your day without giving it another thought.

Tip One: Be absolutely positive to mix the dry ingredients well before adding the water. Otherwise your yeast will clump together and you’ll have a devil of a time trying to mix it through the flour.

The dough will be shaggy, as the recipe states. For me, that means it looks like this:

No-Knead-Dough

It’s not a ball of dough, there are no smooth surfaces to be seen. It’s kind of lumpen and unlovely, if we’re honest. That doesn’t matter. Wrap it up tight, keep it cosy, and let the yeast do its work. It’s pretty much lumpen and unlovely all the way, until you take it out the oven at the end and marvel over its beauty. Kind of an ugly duckling situation…er… if that story ended with roast swan for dinner…

Tip two: That was a joke. Do not eat swans. 

After it rises, it will be a little more swampy than before, and when you tip it out onto your well-oiled worktop, you’ll see tons of bubbles, like so:

No-Knead-Bubbles

This is good news. Try not to bash all the air out of the dough, since you’ve made the yeast work double time to create it in the first place. The dough now gets folded over a couple of times, to give it height. I usually go for a four-way fold – imagining the dough as a square, I lift and fold a section from the top and bottom, then from the left and right. I end up with a kind of swag-bag shape. The dough is sticky and joins up easily, to itself and also to your hands.

No-Knead-Parcel

Tip Three: Coat your hands in oil or water to stop the dough from clinging to them. Make sure your surfaces are well oiled, too. 

The bread relaxes for another half hour after you’ve folded it. It is a soft dough, and it won’t hold its shape over this time. You can stick an inverted bowl over the top – making sure to oil any of the bowl that will come into contact with the dough – to prevent it from spreading too much.

Put the oven on to heat in this half hour – it’s going up to 230C, so it needs some time to get there. Also put the baking dish or tin you’ll be using in there, so it’s piping hot before you put the dough in. This is an area where I differ from the recipe – I use a cake tin to bake the bread, instead of a proper dish with a lid. I leave it uncovered, and bake it for less time. It’s not the recommended method, but it works for me.

The moment when you move the risen dough into the baking tin is the worst part of the whole operation. It’s so soft and delicate that you feel sure you’re going to ruin it – or that you’ll never be able to get it off the counter and into the tin. Have courage – you can do it.

No-Knead-Folded

No-Knead-Unbaked

I sprinkle the surface with a little flour, which helps to stop more sticking and lets me shape the dough just a little, enough to make sure it’s the same size as the awaiting tin. I gently pat and turn it with my hands – the turning makes sure that it’s free of the counter. If it sticks, I get in there with a dough scraper and loosen it off. It’s only a matter of time before the moisture in the dough either soaks into the flour on the surface, or re-attaches to the counter, so you do have to move fast. Scoop it up and drop it into the tin, and give the tin a shoogle to even it out in there.

Tip Four: That baking tin is HOT so be careful. Drop the dough from a little way above the tin, so you don’t hit it with the back of your hands and end up with matching burn marks. People will not be sympathetic about those. They may even snigger.

I bake, uncovered as it is, for half an hour. With my oven, this is when the crust is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when I tap on the base.

Tap tap tap...

Tap tap tap…

No-Knead-Baked-

Put the loaf on a rack as soon as you can, to let any extra moisture out, and let it cool a little before slicing into it. It will be difficult to resist. Be strong.

No-Knead-Slice

And there it is. It’s not my recipe, but it’s one I think a lot of people need to know about. Or no-knead to know about. Ahahaha…

Postscript: I just ate the slice of bread in that picture up there, and it was just so good. The bread is moist and chewy (the way I like it), and has a hint of sourdough flavour from the longer rise. Just a hint. A splash of sourdough starter might be the next way I change the recipe. I don’t know, though. It’s pretty darn perfect. 


Rainbow Cakes


In the wake of the stupendous news from the other side of the pond (or from your own side of the pond, or the top of the pond, or round the back of the pond… it all depends where you’re standing), and with Pride celebrations happening across the world this weekend, I’m seeing wall-to-wall rainbows all over my social media. I’m delighted to see them. Wordpress is flying a rainbow banner at the top of the very page I’m typing on. Half my Facebook friends have rainbow profile pictures. My online world is a brighter place.

And it made me think – remember when I made beautiful rainbow cakes?

You don’t?!

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Look at these glorious beasts. I’ve only made them once, but I feel like I nailed it.

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Rainbow Close Lilac 2

Let this post serve as a reminder that I once made these, and they were awesome. If you want to make your own, I put together a Rainbow Icing Tutorial that you can have a look at. It uses more than one piping bag, and will make a dent in your patience reserves, there’s no denying it.

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Rainbow Post-Icing

You, too, can get your Pride on in the form of cake. If you can convince a baking fanatic friend to make them for you, all the better.

rainbow-cakes-069

Rainbow Cakes 150

Be warned, though. People can come over a bit funny when faced with so much rainbow.

Rainbow Ruth


Foodie Penpals May 2015


My parcel this month came from Ingrida in the Netherlands. I asked her to send me snacks that were ready to eat – and she didn’t disappoint!

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She also included a massive wedge of gouda, which is still keeping me going. Generally I don’t know that it’s a great idea to put cheese in the post – though this one did make it unscathed, as did the packet I got last month. What do other people think? Anyway, this one is strong and smoky, it was the first thing I opened – I couldn’t even wait to take a picture before I tried it.

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The next things were stroppwaffles – I’ve had these before, they are SO good. I have one left, I’m saving it (though I’m sure it won’t last much longer. Fact: the happy man on this packet makes them taste even better.

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There were some speculoos biscuits, too – these were just about right for tea time, the biscuits stand up admirably to being dipped in a hot beverage. And that happy man is there again, too!

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The rest of my parcel was full of boiled sweets, none I’d ever tried before. I tried to figure out the flavours even though I don’t speak Dutch. I figured out the two in tins – they’re coffee and butter flavoured. The butter ones are kind of like Werther’s Originals, sweet and buttery hard caramel. Plus there is a lady on the tin who looks like knows what’s what.

The coffee sweets were excellent – I couldn’t imagine how they’d taste, but they were kind of like mild coffee creams, but longer-lasting. I took all the sweets in to work and there were a lot of pleasantly surprised ‘mmm!’ noises going around the office as people tried these.

There were another two bags of sweets, too – Ingrida really spoiled me! We’re not absolutely positive what these flavours are, but we think these ones are cherry flavoured:

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These were kind of like the rock you get at the seaside, but softer. Not as soft as Edinburgh rock – it has a bit of crunch to it, especially round the edges. I’ve just translated all the writing on the package – they are cherry wands, and the bottom of the label says ‘sweets from the old times’. There’s something very charming about roughly translated phrases, isn’t there?

These were also a kind of caramel toffee sweet, which was unexpected – we were thinking maybe pineapple, by the colour.

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They translate as ‘butter wafers’, though I think ‘butter waffles’ might be more accurate. I love the shape of them! I must try making my own boiled sweets some time.

I loved everything in my parcel – and so did my colleagues – so a big thank you from all of us, Ingrida!

If you’d like to get involved in Foodie Penpals, here’s the lowdown:

We have a Facebook page, where you can see photos of other parcels, read blog posts about them and get to know people who take part.

We use the #foodiepenpals hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.

In Europe, you can sign up through the drop down menu at the top of the page, or by clicking here. We’re taking a break this month, but we’ll be starting up again in July.

In the US and Canada, you can sign up through The Lean Green Bean.


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