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I resurface briefly from the school thing to shamelessly promote my neighbourhood again. (Yes, there remain back-burner posts that I have neglected, including our November 2013 turducken adventure I promised on my Northern bread baking post; I have not forgotten!). There may or may not also be a boastful gleeful lookee!-my-lunch-was-really-the-bestest sentiment that motivated today’s post.

Bread By UsShortly after Hintonburg Market opened, Wellington Street West welcomed a new bakery: Bread By Us. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of trying a rather dark and dense sourdough, a walnut-apricot loaf, baguettes, and both sweet and savoury croissants. I feel neutral about sourdoughs most of the time (but when I’m in the mood I’m sure I’ll go back to pick something up–likely a lighter rendition). Furthermore, the boy is an avid baker, so I wasn’t blown away by the (objectively delicious) walnut-apricot loaf. It’s really the baguettes and croissants (and the very lovely folks behind the counter) that keep me coming back.
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I’m in Iqaluit for a January internship! Somehow, this has translated into cooking up a storm (though I can’t be held responsible for the blizzard that blew through on my 5th day here / 2nd day at work). Between aimless internet rabbit holes and late night classes (and much to the boy’s chagrin), my fall semester was very much not full of kitchen adventures (though: turducken. Which is a back-burner blog post to come).

I decided to make bread, a two fold challenge: 1) I can count on one hand the number of loaves I’ve ever made (the boy is the baker) and 2) I would have to mix the dough by hand (our Kitchen Aid is one of my favourite kitchen acquisitions). Mixing dough by hand gives me pause in appreciating generations past – grandmothers and wives who made bread for years without gadgets.

Below chronicles my very exciting Friday night / Saturday morning. Following that is the recipe the boy’s instructions – let me know if you decide to give it a go!

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no knead breadThe 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

comes out perfectly every time.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).

Ten whole dollars worth of smoked salmon was consumed within a six hour span on Friday – make that fourteen dollars, actually, as the prompt grocery purchase was spawned by a super sale. Decadent? Definitely. The first encounter was during lunch: smoked salmon draped on cream cheese on the boy’s homemade bread pan bread. Yes, the boy baked again, much to my delight, and did something to the effect of this:

1 cup milk
1/3 – 1/2 cup water
1 heaping tsp yeast
1 1/2 tbs brown sugar
2 3/4 cup all purp. flour
1/4 whole wheat flour
1 heaping tbs cornmeal
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
3/4 tsp salt

Throw ingredients into the bread maker (on the dough cycle) – once the cycle is complete, take the dough, and thoroughly crust it with more cornmeal. In the meantime, warm the oven briefly so it is slightly above room temperature: this allows for the bread to rise in an ideal environment. Place the dough into a bread pan, into the oven, and allow it to rise until it is about 1 in above bread pan. Then, she is ready to be baked at 350F for 30 min or so, until crust becomes golden.

The rest of the smoked salmon was consumed during dinner – some more on toast, but more interestingly, some in the potato leek soup I tried to improvise. As a straight up potato leek soup, it faired okay, though I am of a belief that mediocre potato leek soups are easy to come by. I’m unsure of how to zing the soup, but certainly, duck stock will not be used next time: a little bit of a waste, since the stock itself was indiscernible (another grocery run will arm us with chicken necks and backbones again).

potato leek soup