Monthly Challenge: Food Photography

This month’s challenge is a personal favorite.  If I could consistently follow a recipe without the temptation to tweak everything (and add way too much curry)  I would consider being a food blogger.  I enjoy food, and run so that I can enjoy it a little more than I probably should, especially when I travel.  When I look back on trips, I don’t want to feel as though I missed out on numerous culinary adventures because I was “watching what I ate,” boo to that!

I will admit, my husband does most of the enjoyable cooking and baking around here.  When you live in an area somewhat removed from civilization, and by that I mean 1.5 hours from the nearest Target, you get really good at improvising, doing without, and making your own.  Since moving here, my husband has become a master at making his own pizza dough, and more recently at baking beautiful artisan bread.  The kind of bread that has that amazing crispy, explodes in your mouth, crust like the traditional European-style boule. Yum.

Beautiful Boule

One beautiful boule

Our favorite No-Knead Bread Recipe first appeared in 2006 in the detailed New York Times article called,” The Secret of Great Bread:  Let Time Do the Work.”  This bread is super easy, but takes a little time, as explained by Jim Lahey, owner of the Sullivan Street Bakery.

There are many versions of this recipe out on the web, but the recipe for the Parmesan Black Pepper No-Knead Bread from Williams-Sonoma is our favorite rendition and makes great sandwich bread you’d expect to find in an upscale deli or bakery.  The most important part of this recipe is the covered casserole dish, heavy ceramic pot, or dutch oven, that you preheat before baking.  Using what we had, the improvising part from above, we increased the original recipe to create a larger loaf that would fit in our largest covered dish – our trusty 2.5 quart Corelle covered casserole.   The Parmesan black pepper no-knead bread recipe that best fits this heavy ceramic pot is as follows:

4.5 c bread flour

1.5 tsp salt

3/4 tsp yeast

2 1/4 c water

3/4 – 1 c shaved Parmesan

3/4 – 1 c cubed Parmesan

1/2 c corn meal

Using a large metal bowl mix all the ingredients together until the dough forms a sticky ball.  Cover the bowl with saran wrap and allow to rise for 12 – 18 hours.

This is what the bread will look like after rising for a few hours.  If you warm the oven slightly before you allow it to rise, you'll get a much larger rise, but be careful, don't leave the oven on!

This is what the bread will look like after rising for a few hours. If you warm the oven slightly before you allow it to rise, you’ll get a much larger rise, but be careful, don’t leave the oven on!

Using a smaller bowl, put a dish towel in the bottom and sprinkle heavily with corn meal and set aside.  Flour a working surface as wide as the bowl that you had the dough in originally, and plop the dough softly onto the surface.  Pull the dough edges until if forms a ball.  Do not overwork.  Put the dough in the corn mealed/towel bowl and cover with saran. (Don’t worry, it will come out!)  Allow to rest for two more hours.  Pre-heat the oven, with the casserole dish or dutch oven with the lid, to 450 degrees, and plop the bread into the hot pan and bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.  Remove the lid and bake for another 25 – 30 minutes with the lid off.  Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool on a dish towel or baking rack.  Store in a plastic bag after it’s cooled completely.  The bread lasts for about 5 days before going stale, and will last months if well wrapped and placed in the freezer.  We’ve started baking extras on the weekends to have in our freezer for those times when you just want to grab a loaf and enjoy with some hot soup.

Parmesan pepper bread makes great sandwich bread and has a bit of a kick thanks to the pepper!

This Parmesan black pepper recipe makes great sandwich bread and has a bit of a kick thanks to the freshly ground black pepper!

This bread makes amazing croutons too, so be sure to save those butts for more make your own goodness as follows:

Chop several day old bread into 1/2 inch cubes (or to a size you like) and place in a bowl.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and shake your favorite seasoning salt over the top (we love Cavender’s).  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes turning the croutons half way through baking.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Store for up to a week in an air-tight container.

Just a little olive oil and your favorite seasonings turns your old crusty bread into a fabulous addition to soups and salads.

Just a little olive oil and your favorite seasonings turns your old crusty bread into a fabulous addition to soups and salads.

As you can tell, I am in love with this bread recipe and the easy method and hope you enjoy it too.  To me, it’s quite literally the best thing since, well, sliced bread!

For additional baking and cooking inspiration, continue on to Catherine’s blog where she is sure to be cooking up something beautiful!

Enjoy!  And Thanks Jeff Lahey for sharing this wonderful recipe to the world!

Enjoy! And thanks Jim Lahey for sharing this wonderful recipe with the world!

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