Crestwood reader Carole Splater has a message for ‘yeast-a-phobic’ cooks. “It’s almost a sin that my English Muffin Bread is so easy. We love it, our guests love it, everybody loves it.”
And I love it too, ever since Carole e-mailed her recipe last fall.
No bread machine, no stand mixer, no kneading. Just a few ingredients, 15 minutes of attention and two hours later, hot delicious bread emerges from the oven. The crust is great, the crumb is perfect. If this recipe can’t resolve someone’s insecurities about yeast bread, well, their loss. Really, there is simply no need, ahem, to worry about this no-knead bread.
ENGLISH MUFFIN BREAD
Time to table: 2 hours
- 1 packet yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 cup flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1-1/4 cup warm (not hot) tap water
- 1-3/4 cups flour, fluffed
- Yellow cornmeal
In a large bowl, combine the yeast, 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and water. With a hand-held mixer, beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. (Time yourself, 3 minutes takes forever with such an easy job.) Add the remaining flour and mix until fully blended. If the dough gets so thick it wants to ‘climb’ the beaters, stop, remove the beaters, and use a wooden spoon to finish blending. The dough will be thick and heavy.
Grease a 1-1/2 or 2-quart casserole dish and dust with cornmeal. Add dough and arrange evenly (it’ll be thick and heavy, this needn’t be perfect). Sprinkle with cornmeal.
Cover with a light towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 – 60 minutes, until bread roughly doubles in size. Some time midway, preheat oven to 400F. Remove the towel and bake for 30 – 45 minutes until top is golden. Turn onto a cooling rack.
CONVERTING the RECIPE to WHOLE GRAIN FLOUR Thanks to the encouragement of Shannon (a Kitchen Parade reader, see the comments below), I made the No-Knead English Muffin Bread using 1 cup freshly ground whole wheat flour and 1-3/4 cup of King Arthur's 100% white whole wheat flour. The bread was very good but a little 'earthy' for my taste. Next time, I'll try 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour. I'll also add a tablespoon or two of molasses to deepen the color and add a bit of sweetness that seems needed for whole-grain breads. If anyone has more ideas, I would love to know, since converting bread recipes to whole grain flours should be a definite goal for all of us.
HOW WARM IS A 'WARM PLACE' FOR BREAD DOUGH TO RISE? Like many people, I keep my house a cool 65 - 67F during the winter. Bread dough rises verrrry slowly at this temperature. So I've taken to using a small, portable space heater near the bowl. I've learned that it must be set at 75F, not 70F, for a quick rise. Good to know!
USE MORE YEAST Carole writes that she now uses a whole tablespoon of yeast to substitute for a packet. She continues, "It makes an even lighter product. I bake LOTS of bread over time and have found this to be very successful!"
No-Knead English Muffin Bread is my contribution to the bread-baking extravaganza being celebrated for World Bread Baking Day.
Two years ago, the New York Times published a recipe for No-Knead Bread. Sure, the bread needed no kneading, but more than that, the technique yielded a bread with a crackling-crisp crust and a light, airy interior crumb. This would be worth kneading! Within a couple of weeks, food bloggers and bread bakers everywhere were baking loaves of No-Knead Bread. (Just check Food Blog Search, it's amazing the number of references.) I made it a few times but was unexcited, if only because it took a master clock watcher to figure out when to START the bread some time early the day before, in order to serve hot bread for supper the next night. Plus the dough was wet and sticky, hard to work with, especially for someone perhaps less confident in the kitchen. The flavor was okay, but, well, not worth the trouble. (In fact, Cooks Illustrated tested and retested the recipe, see the January 2008 issue since it's available online only with a paid subscription, and the New York Times just recently published a revision, Speedy No-Knead Bread.)
When Carole wrote to me last fall, she'd not heard about No-Knead Bread! But she'd been making her No-Knead English Muffin Bread for years, perfecting the already-simple recipe. Thank you, Carole, for letting me share your recipe with Kitchen Parade readers, I just know they'll love the ease and convenience!
One of the main ideas in how to save money on groceries is to 'do the math'. Let's do the math on homemade bread.
Carole shared her math for yeast. "Try buying yeast at Sam’s Club or Costco – the cost difference is so phenomenal. Two pounds of yeast costs $3 something (so $.03 per loaf) versus $1.59 for 3/4 ounces (so $.53 per loaf) at the grocery store, the equivalent of $67. I keep yeast in a mayonnaise jar in the freezer; it lasts indefinitely."
But let's go further. At my grocery store today, 5 pounds of brand-name unbleached flour is $2.99 for five pounds so you'll use $.30 of flour, salt is $.46 for 24 ounces, cornmeal is $1.89 for 24 ounces.
Summary: $.03 yeast + $.30 flour + less than a penny for salt + $.05 for cornmeal. Who's buying bread for less than $.40 a loaf or $.05 a serving? (Heavens, who buys a bagel for less than that?) I think not! Food for thought, indeed.
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