No-knead bread

Yes, I know. No-knead bread has been around for ages. I’m late to the party. But it’s easy and delicious. It’s also incredibly exciting, unless your definition of excitement doesn’t include covering the kitchen floor and your clothes in flour and then staring at the oven for half an hour before pulling out a loaf of bread. And then doing a little dance while listening to the crackling of the crust as it cools down. I find that exciting.
This comes from the book “Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day” and, while I love it for introducing me to the concept, I also have Clotilde to thank for finally managing to make a nice loaf of bread. After many failed attempts, I read this and realised the obvious thing: I had been severely underflouring my dough.

The consistency of my doughs still varies, but most of my loaves now are successful. The wetter doughs produce larger holes but flatter loaves, and they are excellent for eating with soups and stews. A drier dough sacrifices the impressively hole-y interior but gives you nicely shaped loaves that you can use to make sandwiches. It is also much easier to handle, meaning that you can make large loaves easily.

The loaf pictured below came from dough slightly on the drier side – I probably used 600 gr of flour here. Stick to 550 if you would like bigger holes, but your loaves will be flatter. In all cases, you get really crusty exterior without drying up the inside.

No-knead bread

Ingredients (makes 2 medium sized loaves)

2 cups lukewarm water
1 tbsp active dried yeast (or instant yeast)
1 tbsp salt
550 – 600 gr flour (see notes for type of flour used)
extra flour for dusting

In a large bowl, mix the water, yeast and salt and leave for a few minutes until the yeast granules dissolve (you don’t need to worry too much about the mixture frothing up – if you’re using instant yeast you don’t really have to wait at all).

Mix in most of the flour (about 500 gr) and stir using a spoon until you can’t see any dry patches. Add an extra 50-100gr and incorporate using wet hands. Your final dough should be wet enough so that it slowly deforms and takes the shape of the bowl.

Cover with a plate or a lid (not airtight), and let it rise for at least 2 hours (up to 5 won’t harm it). You are done with the rising when the top has flattened.

You can use the dough now but it’s better to refrigerate it for a couple of hours as it will be easier to handle. The dough will last in the fridge for at least a week and probably 10 days, so you can make this in advance and even double it if you have a large enough container.

Take your dough out of the fridge, flour the surface and your hands and pull out a chunk about half the size of the whole dough*. Form a smooth ball by pulling the sides of the dough underneath it. Don’t overdo it or the top layer of the dough will start splitting! Tuck the ends underneath – the bottom might look a bit messy but it will even out during rising/baking.  Place it on a smooth chopping board dusted with flour.

Let it rise for 40 minutes. Turn the oven on to 230 degrees Celsius and place a pizza stone on the middle shelf 10 minutes before the end of the rising time. Place a tray on the shelf underneath.

Dust the surface of the dough with flour and make some quite deep cuts using a bread knife. Make sure the bottom isn’t sticking to the chopping board – if it is, push some flour underneath using the bread knife. Slide the dough onto the pizza stone and quickly pour a cup of hot water (from the tap) into the tray underneath. Shut the oven door as quickly as possible to trap the steam in.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is looking nice and golden. Let it cool before you cut a slice.

Not that I’ve ever done that!

To keep the outside crispy, I store the bread with the cut side flat on a plate.

*If it’s too wet to handle, you haven’t got enough flour in it. You can incorporate some more flour at this step, or choose to bake it in a loaf tin. If using a loaf tin, make sure you grease it well with some oil and let the dough rise for an extra 45 minutes – 1 hour.

(Healthy-ish) Spinach and Feta mini-pies

What do you do when you’ve spent three days eating huge amounts of spit-roast lamb for lunch and dinner?

Apparently, you find yourself ordering a crepe at that (life-saving) 24h sandwich shop. At 4 in the morning. I can’t even remember what was in there, but there was definitely cheese, chips (yeah, obviously) and mayo. And probably some meat.

Greedy.

I woke up with no hangover – thankfully all those calories didn’t completely go to waste. But I was really hoping to eat something slightly healthier and preferably green-coloured. I don’t think my mum has ever seen me so excited about spinach.

The recipe is of course quite vague, since this is how mum described it to me. Actually, her first sentence was “Make some dough” and she was not going to offer any further explanation. Thankfully she saw the blank look on my face and got the hint.

Spinach and Feta mini-pies

For the dough

500 gr all-purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
enough water to make a dough (~1/2 pint)

Simply mix the flour with the oil and the salt and then add water gradually and knead until you have a dough. You want it as wet as possible without sticking to your fingers or the bowl. Knead until smooth and let it rest. In the meantime, prepare the filling.

For the filling

200 gr spinach
6-7 spring onions
a bunch of dill
150 gr feta, crumbled
2 tbsp rice, washed
olive oil
a pinch of salt and some pepper

First of all, wash your greens and chop them up. In a big bowl, mix with the cheese and the rice. Add some pepper, a little bit of salt, depending on how salty your feta is, and drizzle with olive oil. Mix to combine.

By now the dough should be ready to be used. Cut off an apple-sized piece and place it on a lightly floured surface. You want to roll it out to a rectangular shape, a bit like in the picture below, but probably a bit thinner than mine. Make it thin enough so that you can just about see there’s spinach inside when you fill it and roll it up.

Add some of the mixture in the middle and then roll it into a long cylinder. Squeeze the ends of the dough to seal them and roll it in this kind of shape:

Brush top and bottom with some olive oil, place on a tray and cook in a preheated oven (180 degrees) for about 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. My mum turned them round towards the end, but I forgot to. Not sure how much of a difference it makes but you should probably do it anyway.

I think mine also needed a bit more cooking, but I was in a hurry. I reheated a couple the next day, and they were nicer, so leave yours until they look a bit darker than the ones on the picture.

I really love making a big batch of these and having them for lunch the next day too. You can also have them as a light dinner or serve them as a side to something meaty (in Greece we had them with some lamb – of course!).

You can add less authentic things in there too, like some kind of meat, diced finely. Just don’t skip the rice, it makes a big difference as it absorbs the liquid from the spinach and stops them from turning soggy.