Last weekend, I embarked on what seemed like a simple quest for two Thanksgiving recipes. My little list centered around finding a vegetarian dish that would freeze, travel, and reheat well, and a simple and rustic bread that could rise, bake, and be ready to hit the road within 24 hours.
With all of the options available online, my search quickly morphed into a deep, dark, butternut squash and sage-scented Thanksgiving recipe rabbit hole. As I floated down, past enough Pinterest pins and Food52 entries to make a girl want to skip the holiday entirely, I kept bumping into the same bread recipe, slightly altered each time depending on the chef.
Not kidding you, I came across the recipe in some version or another no less than ten times. Its popularity piqued my interest and after some digging, I uncovered the original source.
“Aha!” I triumphantly thought to no one at all when I found it. The bread is the creation of Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street bakery in Hell’s Kitchen. It was originally published in the NY Times in ’06…. in my beloved Mark Bittman’s column. Circle of life. Had to make it. Bread of destiny. This bread chose me.
NO-KNEAD PEASANT BREAD
- 3 c all purpose flour OR 2.5 cups all purpose and 1/2 cup whole wheat
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 c warm water (not hot)
- optional additions: orange or lemon zest, fresh herbs, 1/2 c shredded cheese, 1/2 c nuts, 1/2 c dried fruits or berries
- a cast iron or ovenproof dutch oven with a lid; Lodge makes great ones at great price points
In a large glass bowl, mix the flour, salt, and yeast. Add any fillings you’d like to- I added orange zest, cranberries, and walnuts for a holiday flavor profile similar to my favorite cranberry-pistachio biscotti (a!g recipe here– so tasty and you can mail it as gifts). Combine well.
Add the warm water and stir it all up- you may want to do this by hand as the dough will be sticky and will do a number on whatever spoon you use. Mix until the dough forms a shaggy ball. Cover very tightly with multiple layers of plastic wrap or an airtight lid and put somewhere warm overnight. You can let this rise for 12-18 hours, whatever you have time for. I let my breads rise in the microwave- microwaves are a small, warm environment and using them keeps bowls of dough off of busy kitchen counters. Microwaves are also great for speed rising; learn about that-and a great foccaccia recipe!- here.
When you’re ready to bake, heat your oven to 450 and put your lidded dutch oven inside to pre-heat. Let it heat up for at least 30 minutes and while it does, generously dust a non-terry cloth kitchen towel with flour or cornmeal or both. Dump the dough out onto the towel and shape into a ball, dusting with a bit of flour. Let the dough rest until the pot has preheated for that 30-minute time frame or longer, if you have time. If you’d like, snip the top of the dough ball twice across the top with scissors for pizzazz. You fancy thing, you.
When the oven and pot are hot, very carefully dump the dough ball into the dutch oven. Shake the pot around a bit to center the dough if you need to, with a pot holder, of course. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.
After 30 minutes, remove that lid and bake an additional 15. Then, guess what? You’re done!!! Remove the bread to a rack to cool. It will have formed a really gorgeous, floury crust and will smell delicious. It’s great toasted, as sandwich bread, or served straight-up with butter (personal fave). The bread can be spiffed up to your liking to include fillings mentioned above or none at all! To store, keep in a paper bag to preserve the crust- enlist your Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods bag reserves!
The veggie dish I decided on is not healthy at all and is super rich and glorious, so it seemed holiday-appropriate: a Swiss chard and leek bechamel-sauced white lasagna! Cheesy, nutmeggy stick-to-your ribs food. Here is a photo and the recipe; I altered it not a bit and recommend it highly. A good friend’s Italian mother-in-law serves a traditional Christmas lasagna each year, and I have loved that idea for a while, holiday lasagnas. This was a velvety and classic option and I got to make bechamel! I baked it, froze it for two days, then thawed and baked again for an hour at 350. A quick and humbling PSA before I go: while making the bread, I may
or may not have inadvertently knocked a kitchen towel into said 450 degree oven when taking the lid off of the dutch oven. May or may not have called the fire department. May or may not have had a very scary morning making this bread. Friends: DO NOT KEEP KITCHEN TOWELS ON THE HANDLES OF YOUR OVEN DOORS. Learn from my smoky little mistake, which could have been much worse. Leaving towels on or near oven doors is a dangerous gamble, no matter how adept you may be in the kitchen. Now that I’ve covered kitchen safety, I can responsibly tell you: have a very Happy Thanksgiving!!