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Freakishly Good Bread

Jan 11, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose

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This is a 'no knead' bread but it is not by any stretch a 'no stretch' bread and therein lies the difference. This impressive loaf is the "Overnight White Bread" from Ken Forkish's book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. It boasts a crunchy/chewy crust, full flavor, and open crumb without the pastiness of the no knead bread and yet it's proportion of ingredients is nearly identical, the only difference being half the yeast.

Analyzing why two breads with the same hydration and ingredients would be so different I concluded that it had to be the way in which the Overnight White Bread is manipulated. Whereas the No Knead Bread is mixed by hand and then left to rise until shaping, the Overnight White Bread is stretched and folded several times. This technique enables the bread to maintain its gas bubbles by strengthening it's structure and changes the way in which the bread ferments.

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One would think that half the yeast would result in a slower rise but, in fact, the suggested rising time is 10 to 12 hours compared to the 18 hours of the no knead bread.

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The informational and instructional writing in this book is a brilliant model of clarity. I was so deeply impressed I looked forward to the day when I might meet the author. The opportunity arose at the International Association of Culinary Professional's awards ceremony in San Francisco where Forkish won the best baking book. In a room filled with people, by some miracle I found him. He smiled, reached out his hand, and although it pained me to do so, in good conscience I explained that I had a very bad cold and didn't want him to catch it. His eyes widened in horror and he physically recoiled as I tried to tell him how much I admired his work.

The following month, fully recovered, I once again encountered Forkish at the Beard Awards Chef's night. I went over to congratulate him hand extended but though he looked happy (he had won best baking book at the ceremony the night before) he also looked spooked. I joked that I no longer had a cold but he actually backed away running to the bar and saying: "I need a drink."

I felt torn between hurt and disappointment and then I remembered Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged, in which one of the central characters stated that he never wanted to meet the artist of a work he admired, as it was always a disappointment. In my personal experience that has never been the case until now. But it won't stop me from baking his bread

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and it shouldn't stop you from buying his wonderful book.

Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza


Note re the Emile Henri Bread Cloche: I actually prefer this ceramic bread baker to the cast iron Dutch oven for baking this bread as the dough can be inverted or lifted easily onto the preheated base and the preheated dome set on top. Instead of having to unmold it by inverting a heavy hot pot the dome can simply be lifted off.

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Emile Henry Red Bread Cloche


Note re hand shaking: This tradition is possibly the worst possible custom of any culture. While bowing may be damaging to a bad back, nothing beats hand to hand contact for contagion, plus thoughtlessly strong hand shakers can near cripple a smaller and especially an arthritic hand. The gentlest and most beautiful salutation I know of is the Indian custom of putting ones hands together palm to palm, fingers pointing straight up, while saying Namaste (I salute the God within you.)

Comments

I finally got the ordered book from Amazon and try to learn the material. I have been baking bread for a long time and using Rose starter and always get great results. Question is - whether it is possible conversion between your sourdough and sourdough described in Forkish's book or there I need to start to feed 2 kind of starters.

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Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from Amanda
01/30/2014 01:25 PM

no there is no ring around the bread--just a shadow!

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Hi Amanda--are you referring to the banneton in the third picture?

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Do you have some sort of ring around the bread baked in the cloche? It looks like it in the picture...does that help it not spread too much?

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I made one of his pizza dough recipes, and it didn't turn out all that spectacular, but I'm sure it was my fault and not the recipes....my first pizza attempt in many years. Maybe I'll try Rose's next time. But my first attempt at the pure levain country blonde bread: turned out exactly like the loaves he sells in his bakery. Awesome! Of course then I had to go out and buy bannetons and my second 2 batches have not been as great...need to practice to get consistent results, I guess (too much flour on the outside the second time, not enough the third time and the dough stuck to the bannetons and deflated when released). Nevertheless, much better than no-knead bread. I got one lodge 4 qt dutch oven, and now Rose makes me want to go get an Emile Henri cloche. Which makes it the Most. Expensive. Bread. Ever. And I miss your blog posts btw, ECL! :)Also, finally made chocolates for the first time in 3.5 yrs...I might be motivated to start doing that again. Tasty!

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Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from evilcakelady
01/12/2014 04:51 PM

yes he does have a pizza recipe in his book and i like his technique of using the broiler for the top of it but i still much prefer my own pizza crust for texture.

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I haven't been to Ken's bakery in a while (it's on the other side of town) but his pizza restaurant...to die for!! I hope he's got a pizza dough recipe in his book and that it is just as amazing as what you can get at his restaurant. He's definitely done a lot to elevate the art of bread and pastry in this town.

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I made some very wonderful bread from Forkish's book, sorry to hear he wasn't more welcoming in person. Your rendition is gorgeous!

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Just use half the amount of starter when you are feeding it...I always use 50g instead of 100g. On the day before baking, the morning before mixing the final dough, that won't give you enough for 2 loaves. So I use the full 100g and then make sourdough pancakes or pizza with the dough the next day. But I suppose you could also split the difference and use 3/4 of the levain feeding recipe, with 75 g of levain.

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Jeannette Mara
Jeannette Mara
01/11/2014 05:18 PM

Rose, I have Forkish's book and have made lovely bread from it a few times now. However, the one thing that bugs me about his method is having to waste so much starter, as he instructs in his book. I really can't bring myself to throw away so much , how do you feel about this?

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