" " " " Singing With Birds: Seeking New York's "Upper Crust"

Monday, March 15, 2010

Seeking New York's "Upper Crust"

One of the great joys of our service in New York City, for 18 months, was feeding lots of missionaries, students and friends from our church. Most of these gatherings were fairly informal. I tried to plan something filling and nutritious on a limited budget for a large group. When we grilled chicken breasts or made pulled-pork we would order delicious rolls at Parisi Brother's Bakery on 31st and Broadway, under the subway, in Astoria, Queens. Picking up our large order at 7 AM, still hot, these steamy rolls fogged up our car and made it smell outrageously fabulous!

Upon finishing our mission, we returned to a small town in the West. No more plentiful bakeries and missing my New York resource, I thought back to
2006 when Mark Bittman of the NY Times started a frenzy in the baking world. He published Jim Lahey's, No-Knead Bread recipe. Lahey, worked as a baker at Manhattan's Sullivan Street Bakery. I found the recipe again and went to work, hoping for big city results. What a snap! It's so easy and I've been so pleased. Jim's inventive method allows time to do all the work while you rest!

Here's what you do: take 3 cups of flour, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. yeast, 1 1/2 cups of warm water and mix it with a spatula to make a very wet dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise overnight. Next a.m., fold dough in thirds and place seam side down on a well-floured clean towel and let rise again for about 2 hours. Heat a 5 quart or larger heat-safe pot in a 450F oven for 30 minutes. Carefully dump the dough in seam-side up and bake covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15-20 minutes so bread can brown and get crusty. That's it! This makes one loaf.

Another way of making a great No-Knead Bread, has become my favorite. It's for all of you, like me, who haven't planned for an overnight rising. In two hours your dough is ready to make 2 large loaves or up to 12 beautiful sandwich style rolls. Here's a run through:
In a large bowl, add 3 cups of lukewarm water with 1 1/2 Tbls. instant yeast, 1 1/2 Tbls. kosher salt, and 6 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour. Stir together until there are no more dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover with a towel and place in a warm spot for 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
At this point you can make your bread or rolls, or you can refrigerate the dough for as long as two weeks.
For a loaf, fold the four edges under, gently stretching the dough to form a smooth ball on top and a lumpy bottom. You can use flour or bran to dust a towel, (a smooth towel, not terrycloth). Let rest for 1 to 2 more hours.
I use this vintage pot, a treasured hand-me-down from my mother-in-law. Its sides are 4"high x 9" across the top, and makes a great round loaf. Use a covered pot, five-quart or larger, cast-iron, Pyrex, ceramic, or enamel, that can go in a 450F oven.
You may need to use a parchment round in the bottom of your pot so it doesn't stick. I know it looks like a 3 year old cut it...you'll never know for sure who did! The last 30 minutes that the bread is rising, turn your oven to 450F and slip your covered pot in the oven to preheat.

Your dough should have doubled in size. Remove the pot from the oven. Holding the towel, dump the wobbly dough into the hot pot. It doesn't matter which way it lands. Gently shake to even the dough out. Cover and bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is beautifully golden.
Remove and let cool on a wire rack. If not eaten right away, you can re-crisp crust in a 350F oven for 10 minutes. Note, I used wheat bran on my towel to keep the bread from sticking. Isn't it pretty?
I have found that this is an easy and effective method to produce the kind of loaf usually on sale in artisan bakeries for a pretty penny. My bread has a dense crumb and a really crusty, crunchy crust.
My fan club likes it with soft butter when it's hot right out of the oven!
Now, for a perfectly crusty roll, this recipe will produce a dozen large hard rolls. I use the same method tucking the dough under to form a smooth top and place them on a greased and cornmeal covered cookie sheet. I like to dust the tops with a little flour!
A half-size sheet with 6 rolls fits perfectly into my toaster size confection oven. I bake them at 425F, with confection or 450 F in a regular oven, for 16 to 18 minutes. Watch carefully your first time as some ovens vary greatly.
They bake perfectly and have a beautiful texture and appearance!
I think these rolls may be better than Parisi Brothers... at much less than 40 cents each!
I can happily say I miss my New York friends, but love having little fans visit and enjoy what their Grammie makes for them. I love the buttery kisses and smiles I get in return. Happy baking all!
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11 comments :

  1. "buttery kisses and smiles" are worth the effort of making homemade bread! Thanks for sharing this recipe, I can't wait to make it for my family.

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  2. Oh my goodness this looks super yummy! I LOVE bread. Also my hubbie served in up state New York. He loved it and I wrote him the entire two years. New York is amazing!

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  3. I made the bread today!! it rose so much, it got overwhelming at first....probably 'cause I didn't have a pot like your's (my mom did, but I think my brother took it after she died)soooooooooooo,I used my cast iron pan. it turned out GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  4. Thanks! I'm so glad you feel success and made it work for you, Angela. Also, Michelle and Melissa, thanks for your kind comments. It's fun to hear that your husband served in NY, Melissa and that you shared in the experience by supporting him. My best to each of you.

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  5. That looks super yummy:) I would love for you to come and link up to check me out saturdays at www.iamonly1woman.blogspot.com

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  6. Wow this looks yummy! I have only made homemade bread once and would love to try it again! This recipe looks great.

    Thank you so much for linking up today, however, I did not see a courtesy link back to my blog. This is just as a thank you courtesy but also so that your readers can read what the other participants said as well.

    There is a link on the MYHSM meme post that will take you to the instructions if you'd like to read them!

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  7. Great work...again I am amazed at your artisan abilities!

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  8. Oh how crazy! I went to high school with the missionary on the far left! (if I am right...) Is he from Spanish Fork, Utah? If that is who I think it is, he is the nicest person and I am proud of him for serving a mission! I didn't know him too well, but he could dance like michael jackson!

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  9. How fun! He was a great missionary, and spoke Mandarin Chinese, serving in the Flushing, Queens area. He is heading back to your area to continue in school next Fall. I never got to see him dance like Michael Jackson during our time together of course, but I'll beg for a demo next time I see him. Thanks Gillian!

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  10. Renee, this looks amazing! I've always known that you were an incredible cook...but look at this bread! I'm gonna have to give it a try...

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  11. Whoa! I'm looking to try this. Beautiful photos!

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Thanks so much for leaving a comment. I read each and every one and they make me sing! renée

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