Fun food-related anecdote of the day: I advised an elderly Puerto Rican lady on how to use leeks at the NYU Med farmers market today. She saw me purchasing a bunch and asked if they would be good in soup. We discussed vichyssoise.
Anyway, as I've mentioned, anyone afraid of baking bread should give Jim Lahey's no-knead recipe a shot; it's practically foolproof. While his basic loaf has often graced my kitchen, this was the first time I tried his whole wheat variation, including a half-cup of steel-cut oats and a tablespoon of vinegar. Steel-cut oats are delicious to eat--they're the cut-up oat kernel, or groat--but rarely does one get the opportunity to bake with them. There were some adjustments to be made to the recipe, though: I don't have flaxseeds, so I just didn't include them, and I don't have white vinegar, so I used red wine vinegar instead.
Most crucially, I realized that I didn't have time to finish the baking before I returned to class, so I briefly cranked up the heat and then gritted my teeth, turned off the oven, and hoped. The oven must have stayed hot enough for a sufficiently long period of time, because the bread was moist and chewy and lovely. But the crust was, unsurprisingly, not browned. Thus, I have declined to include a photo of the sort of dirty beige result. I assure you, however, that this is a great way to get sourdough flavor without all the bother of using a starter.
Here is my variation on the recipe, with due credit to Lahey for his genius:
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour (I suspect all-purpose would be just fine)
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast
1 tbsp vinegar
1 1/2 cup warm water
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the water and vinegar and mix using your hands or a spatula or a wooden spoon until you get a moist, shaggy mass. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 12 to 18 hours (mine sat for 16 in a very warm place and got a nice, strong sour flavor to it).
Place the dough on a sheet of lightly floured parchment paper or aluminum foil and knead it, just 10 or 15 times. Shape it into a ball*, cover it loosely with more foil or plastic wrap, and let it rise for 2 hours.
With a half-hour to go before the rise is done, put a Dutch oven or pot on the lowest oven rack and preheat the oven to 475. When the dough is ready to go, lightly flour the top and slash it with a sharp knife or razor blade. Gently lift the parchment paper or towel and put the dough in the pot. Turn the heat to 425 and bake for 30 minutes with the Dutch oven/pot covered and then 20 to 30 with the Dutch oven/pot uncovered, until the loaf is a rich brown color. Let it cool for at least 30 minutes before you slice into it (this is key to allowing the bread to finish cooking!).
*To shape the dough, pull the edges toward the center and then flip it seam-side down. Sometimes I don't do this so neatly, but it always looks delicious anyway. Don't trouble yourself if you're not too chuffed about playing with the dough more than necessary.
Oh, I made slow-cooked red beans and the last of the Morningstar sausage, as well as the last of my head of broccoli, to go with this. Yeah, that's right. Kidney beans as a side dish to bread. What of it?