The boy, dorkusmagnus, was quite excited to try his professor’s bread recipe.
At McGill, there are a handful of courses offered by the chemistry department that cover tidbits of everyday trivia-type stuff. This semester, these ‘world of chem’ lectures included one on food (incidentally, it’s available for the public online). Having been stuck on a baking phase for the past while, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when the boy excitedly directed my attention to a bread recipe passed down from Prof. Harpp’s mother.
One caveat: we don’t own enamelled cast iron cookware. And this recipe calls for the baking to occur in such a device. And, as much as these things are beautiful and durable through decades and are certainly heavy enough to implement in knocking-out-home-invaders, it was going to be a little bit of an investment. A purchase that had to be planned in advance, anyway, since we’re living on budgets fit for student living. (A Cruset, along with a good quality espresso maker, are among many kitchen toys we’re considering for September.)
Time to get creative: He reached for the wok. Bread in a wok? Well, the wok is rather large, and cast iron, so it implies that the final temperature of the cooking vessel will be a little higher, no? And it has a lid (which was necessary, since the first part of the baking is done with a lid on). I confess I was a little skeptical since I’m sure the expansion/contraction rates of the glass lid differed from the metal trimming. But we’ve had several loaves of this stuff since the first baking, and the lid is still (quite) intact. And the bread’s been getting tastier. Nothing beats fresh bread for breakfast, especially when the boy decides to wake up an hour before me to bake a loaf that was left to rise overnight. I do believe my ancestors would be proud of this clever wok usage, resulting in yummy, crusty bread without fail.
Here’s the recipe (all measurements are approximations – the best way is to fiddle with it for a loaf or two, and tweak until complete satisfaction!):
4 cup flour
1/2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
2 cup water
Mix the ingredients in a large bowl: since this recipe doesn’t require the dough to be kneaded, it’s a good idea to mix everything thoroughly enough so you don’t end up with extremely salty bits here and there. Cover the mixed dough with a damp towel, and let it sit for anywhere between 9 to 15 hours – the boy plops it in the oven (off, of course) overnight, as the oven stays at a relatively stable temperature despite open windows and such. Once you’ve exerted all of that patience, the dough is put into the cooking vessel – (insert enamelled cast iron pot here) in our case, the wok. Preheat the oven to 450F, or 500 if your oven lets you do so. The cooking times are about 30 minutes with the lid, then the lid is removed for the remaining 20 minutes (though for our oven, the last 20 have been shaved down to about 15).