How to make the best bread ever

I know that this post is pretty off topic compared to my regular articles about photography, social media and technology. But a lot of people have asked me about this bread and this is where I share my information. And: for my regular readers I have even managed to put in a nice timelapse in the video showing how the bread is made. :-)

Last year I was attending a lecture on molecular gastronomy. Among other interesting methods Martin Lersch mentioned a bread that didn’t need kneading. For some kind of reason I never tried it but when my friend Jan Omdahl mentioned the same method and told me that it was fantastic I had to try. Because that guy knows what he’s talking about.

So, I found the recipe and the details. And even the video where Jim Lahey shows how to make fantastic bread. And the good news is that this bread is extremely easy to make. (You find the Norwegian version of the recipe and description here.)

So I made this bread a couple of times and it tastes wonderful. But the method had one step that involved huge amounts of flour on the table and a bit of work. I wanted to make it even easier so that I could make this bread every day. I’ve removed the part where Jim Lahey flips the dough on the table and lets it rest in a towel. The main point here is to stretch the dough and the gluten. I figured that it was possible to stretch the dough in the bowl where I had it in the first place. It’s probably not as effective, but after testing both the original and my own new even easier method on the same recipe I figured it was more than good enough. And it was less hassle and less cleaning.

So this is the recipe I’ve ended up with:

10 oz wheat flour
3,5 oz wholemeal
1/4 ts yeast
1 1/2 ts salt
10 oz water

Depending on your location you might want this one:
300 g wheat flour
100 g wholemeal
1/4 ts yeast
1 1/2 ts salt
300 g water

Combine the flour, yeast and salt. Mix in a bowl. Add water and blend it all together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 12-20 hours. Remove the plastic wrap and stretch the dough in the bowl. Cover with a cloth and wait for two more hours. After one and a half hour you warm an iron pot in your owen at 230 degrees celcius (450 fahrenheit). So, when the iron pot has been in the owen for half an hour you’re ready to bake. Throw some flour on top of the dough in the bowl and flip it into the flaming warm pot. Bake in owen with the lid on for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for 15 minutes more.

But, I figured that the easiest way to show people how it was done was to push record on my video camera while making one of those breads. And of course I had to find some creative commons licensed smooth jazz to give that proper food program feeling…

Link to the video on YouTube.

Other types of flour

I’ve experimented with all kinds of flour. From 100% wheat and down to 100 g wheat + 300 g whole meal / wheat bran etc.

Double the amount

No problem. I’ve made a double version of this recipe. I added some minutes to the baking. 10 extra minutes with the lid on and about 10 extra minutes with the lid off. Giving about 40 minutes with the lid on and 25 minutes with the lid off.

Steam oven

If you’re the lucky owner of a steam oven you can use that to bake the bread. In the steam oven you don’t need to use a hot pot or lid. Bake in a regular bread pan.

Set the oven to 230 degrees Celsius and 30% humidity. Immediately after you have placed the bread in the oven you give it three rounds of steam to fill the oven with humidity. Bake for 16 minutes. Then turn the temperature down to 165 degrees and the humidity to 0%. And bake for 40 more minutes. The steam and humidity gives the bread the same crispness that the method with the hot pot and lid.

Bread in steam oven

And here’s the video that shows the secrets of the steam oven.

How to make the best bread ever

The strongest there is

Seriously off topic again, but long time readers know that I’m interested in food and wine as well as technology, gadgets and that very interesting thing called the internet. We just installed a new kitchen, so I’ve made some good food lately. The story about the kitchen from HTH is another one. At this point I’ll share something else.

I just made a new batch of one of my favourite ingredients. It keeps in the freezer for years, so I don’t do that too often. And the ingredient is as simple as it is useful. It consists of water and chili.  But, it has to be the right chili.

The strength of a chili is measuded along the scoville scale. A bell pepper (no strength) is zero. A standard Jalapeno clocks in at up to 8000. That’s a chili that many people consider hot. The small “birds eye” thai chilis are stronger. They measures up to 100 000 at the scoville scale.

But the stuff I prepared the other day is special. It’s the Habanero.

At up to 580 000 on the scoville scale it was long regarded as the hottest chili on this planet. But about eight years ago the Naga Jolokia was properly measured and is supposed to close in on 1 000 000 on the scoville scale. That chili could be regarded as something close to a weapon. Standard US grade pepper spray starts at 2 000 000.

But let’s get back to the Habanero. Still the strongest of the widely available chilis. The hot stuff in the chilis is called capsaicin. And one could think that you’d get the same taste in a sauce if you add a small amount of Habanero or a larger amount of the not-as-strong thai chili. As long as you get the same amount of capsaicin. But it doesn’t work like that. The different chilis have characteristical tastes. And the Habanero gives a very pleasant warmth and full bodied heat. But you don’t need much of it, and you probably won’t use it often. So what do you do if you want some Habanero available at all times?

You buy a couple of them, throw them in a blender with some water and freeze the sauce you get. When you need some pleasant heat in a sauce you use a knife to scrape off a bit of the frozen Habanero into the sauce. Yummy.

This is what you put in the freezer. And how much do you need? It depends on your taste and on how strong the Habaneros you got are. But for a faint background of heat you don’t need much. Something like the amount I have in the image below in a sauce for two persons.

And a very important detail: don’t get the raw habanero on your fingers. Unless you like pain. It will stay there for hours and you’ll realize that when you touch your eyes (or other sensitive parts of your body).

The strongest there is

Foodpairing

Oyvind leads me to this: Foodpairing.

The story:

- FOODPAIRING –
“Food combines with each other when they have major flavour components in common.”

A list was made of 250 food products each with their major flavour components. By comparing the flavour of each food product eg strawberry with the rest of the food and their flavours, new combinations like strawberry with peas can be made. The way to use is, is just to select a food product like strawberries. You will get a plot where you have strawberry in the middle surrounded by other food products. Take one of those other food products and try to make a new recipe by combining those two. The more flavours food products have in common the shorter the distance between the food products.

- FOOD IS INTERCHANGEABLE –
A food product has a specific flavour because of a combination of different flavours. Like basil taste like basil because of the combination of linalool, estragol, …. So if I want to reconstruct the basil flavour without using any basil, you have to search for a combination of other food products where one contains linalool (like coriander), one contains estragol (like tarragon),… So I can reconstruct basil by combining coriander, tarragon, cloves, laurel. The way to use it is to take from each branch of the plot one product and make a combination of those food products.

Wonderful. I need to leave. For the kitchen. Experiments. Lots of experiments.

More food on eirikso:
The pepper matters
How to roast your own coffee
Good American sparkling wine
Make your own mustard with chili and honey

Foodpairing

How to roast your own coffee

Lady in market at Sumbawa
Years ago while travelling the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia I found a lady selling green coffee beans in a market. As you can see from the picture she was also selling wonderful spices, but it was the raw coffee beans I was interested in.
Green beans
I instantly decided that this is something I have to try. Roasting my own coffee. I bought one kilo. The lady did not speak any english and kept repeating “goreng, goreng!” At that point I didn’t understand what she was trying to communicate, but later on I learned that “goreng” means roast or braise. Like in “Nasi Goreng” wich means fried rice, or “Flied Lies” as they pronounce it in southeast asia. She was obviously not confident that this blond backpacker with the red beard knew what he was doing.

Beans in oven
This time I did. After carrying this coffee in my backpack around Kommodo, Lombok and Bali we travelled home and I could start experimenting.

Because you are intelligent enough to read this blog you will not have to experiment when you get hold of some green beans. Recently my good colleague Astrid returned from Cuba with some very good green beans. She was kind enough to give some of it to me! When roasting them today I took some nice pictures and made these simple guidelines:

1. Turn off your fire alarm / smoke detector
2. Preheat your electric oven to 250 degrees celcius (482 F)
3. Spread the beans in an even layer on a plate only one bean deep
4. Roast the coffee for 15 – 25 minutes

250 degrees 15 minutes

The beans will start turning golden and swell, after about 10 minutes they will start making a popping sound as the inner part of the bean transform during roasting. When you open the oven after about 15 minutes to check on the beans it will smoke heavily. Turning off the smoke detector is no joke!

Smoke
During the last minutes you have to check on the beans regularly. Use a flashlight if necessary. Depending on your taste, you can roast the beans all the way to the darkest italian roast. At this stage the beans turn slightly glossy because some of the essential oils in the bean leaks out to the surface.

Italian roasted beans
When finished take the beans out and cool them as fast as possible. If I do this during winter I put them outside. Transfering them to a cool plate is also good.

Chaff Chaff
When they have cooled down you can remove as much of the chaff as possible. The chaff is parts of the inner skin on the bean. You don’t have to remove all of it, but by tossing the beans around in a colander you will get rid of most of it.

Store the beans in an air tight container. Grind only minutes before you are going to brew your coffee. Now you can enjoy the freshest coffee you have ever tasted. If you decide to make espresso you will experiense an insane amount of crema.

And yes, something like Pantone Colour 470M or 730M on the crema is an indication of a good espresso.

Espresso

If you want to take it a step further these are some resources: Sweetmarias, Ongebrand, Coffeegeek

And you can support eirikso.com if you decide to buy the same book that I am using as my detailed guide through this link: Home Coffee Roasting

How to roast your own coffee

Wonderful chocolates

The recipe for one of my favourite chocolates. It’s ridiculously easy to make.

160 g chocolate (5.6 oz)
50 g butter (1.8 oz)
2 tbs honey

The chocolate should be of high quality and with 70% of cocoa. Depending on what honey you use the chocolate will get flavoured. Acacia honey is a delicate honey that just gives a sweet hint and leaves the rest to the chocolate…

Have all the ingredients in a pan and melt over very low heat. The best thing to do is to use a water bath. The chocolate can be destroyed in too high temperatures.

When melted this is a wonderful sauce for ice cream.

Pour the chocolate into moulds or in a slightly soft plastic box. Put in the refrigerator. When cold you can cut it in small shapes or remove from the moulds.

For the observant reader. In the picture at the top of this post there is no honey in the pan. I used 2 tbs of my own home made vanilla sugar. That’s another story and I guess I’ll have to be back with the recipe for that one as well…

Wonderful chocolates

The pepper matters

Black Pepper

Somewhere in the discussion around my little time-lapse experiment a person concluded that “this guy should get a life“. If you are dedicated, patient, accurate and serious about what you do this is a boring comment to get, because you get it all the time. Especially if you are very interested in one single subject. I don’t mind to be called a geek or a nerd. Simply because I am a geek and a nerd. Still, I’m interested in more than time-lapse photography…

Camargue and Maldon

Thanks to several celebrity chefs and huge amounts of books, we know that if you want salt in your dish it has to be sea salt from Maldon in England or from Camargue in France. Of course all ingredients are important and there is a difference. But choosing the right black pepper is more important.

I find it strange that these chefs mainly talk about one thing when they add this spice: pepper has to be freshly ground. That’s the nobrainer. Yes, you can take the glasses and small bags of pre ground pepper you have at home and trash them at once. I was actually very happy when I saw that my favourite food coloumnist, Andreas Viestad wrote about pepper in his last article (norwegian).

So, start by buying yourself a good grinder and always buy whole pepper. Good grinders include the ones from French Peugeot (yes, the car manufacturer) and German Zassenhaus. I am sorry, the American William Bounds is of excellent quality but the construction is no good if you use really fresh and high quality pepper. The large amount of essential oils in high quality pepper clogs the William Bounds grinders. Still, he has an excellent product that I’ll mention later.

Because I’m a geek and a nerd I can’t just stop here. Freshly ground is OK but you also need high quality.

Tellicherry

Some of the best peppercorns are grown in India. Unfortunately, all the speciality shops I have visited in Oslo only talk about “black pepper”, not what kind of black pepper. So I have to buy my pepper when travelling. I have just returned from the US. One of the countries where I always buy my favourite black pepper, the Tellicherry. I find it at Williams Sonoma in the US and at the Fauchon in Paris, France.

Compared to low quality “black pepper” from the supermarket this one is extremely pungent and with complex aromas. If you can’t get the Tellicherry pepper try to get hold of Malabar.

Having a life is a very personal thing that nobody else but you can control. Being this geeky about my pepper will for sure earn me even more “you need a life“-comments. But who cares? …and for the useful product from William Bounds. The nutmeg grinder:

Nutmeg Grinder

It’s simply excellent.

The pepper matters

Good American sparkling wine

Champagne Cork Roederer Estate

“When in Rome, do like the romans”. I’m still in America and should do like the Americans. When choosing some good sparkling wine for this new years eve I could happliy choose a good bottle of the real thing, Champagne. Because the US is one of the worlds biggest markets for genuine Champagne. And yes, Champagne is a sparkling wine that is made, and only made in Champagne, France. No other sparkling wine should ever be called Champagne.

But, they make wine here in the US as well. Even sparkling ones. After tasting some of them I could have gone to the conclusion that they are all crap, but they’re not. Some of them are far too sweet and full bodied for my taste but it’s all about knowledge. Knowledge about finding the good ones.

Knowledge that I don’t have. Fortunately I have a brother-in-law that is one of the world’s best tasters and a living encyclopedia of wine. One phonecall later: “Look for Iron Horse or Roederer Estate.”

Champagne Roederer Estate

So I did, and today we tasted the Anderson Valley Brut from Roederer Estate. At $15 it is remarkably complex and very good. Not like really good true Champagne, but a very good sparkling wine indeed!

Tomorrow we’ll taste the Roederer Estate Brut Rosé and for the evening dinner: Iron Horse Clasic Vintage Brut 2000. And what’s our new years eve dinner down here in sunny Florida?
Fresh shrimp from the gulf tossed in lots of freshly ground Malabar Pepper and grilled…

Granita

If you for some strange kind of reason should have any leftovers you make this lovely
Granita with Pink Grapefruit

1/2 cup (1 dl) water
1/2 cup (1 dl) sugar
Cook and stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Chill to room teperature.

Add:
Juice from one pink grapefruit
1/4 cup (1/2 dl) sparkling wine

Freeze for about one hour (until you have a thin layer of ice on the top and around the sides). Take out of the freezer and stir around. Mix the ice shards with the liquid. Put back in the freezer.
Repeat this process until the granita is icy and granular.

Should be served within a couple of hours.

Iron Horse Champagne

As a curiosity I also want to mention that I found it very flattering that at age 35 I had to show an ID before I could buy these bottles of great American sparkling wine over at “Total Wine”. By the way, the biggest wine store I have ever visited.

Update:
And if you can’t afford sparkling wine at all head over here. LOL…

Good American sparkling wine