Procrastination has long been a mistress from which only a restraining order could keep me. I'd think I had finally moved on—that oil change was taken care of on time, the lawn was an acceptable length, and any outstanding library fines were paid up—but then I'd show up drunk at procrastination's apartment at 4am and ask her to take me back.
I've certainly been able to stay away a bit longer as I've aged. I tend to stay up to date at work (mostly because I've learned that if I don't answer that email immediately, I'll have forgotten about it in 4 minutes tops and it will officially never be addressed). I managed to avoid parts of the issue altogether with the help of automatic bill pay. I've come to realize the quality of life equity that is earned by finishing it and forgetting it.
And yet, I still pay shameful visits to my old flame more often than I'd prefer to admit.
Such was the case a few weeks ago when Suzie's Farm, a local organic grower, offered a bread making workshop that I got myself alllll excited for. As on-again-off-again CSA members, we would receive their calendar of events. One particular calendar arrived at least six months prior listed this bread workshop, and so piqued was my interest that I actually tacked that flyer to the fridge to remind myself of the impending date six months down the road.
For the last couple of months leading up, I had that date in mind:
It is coming up! I am going to take part and it will be awesome! Farm fields! Yeasty dough! Fresh bread still warm from the hand-built wood-fired oven!
Then, about a month prior to the event, the farm published a post announcing the link to sign up:
I could sign up right now, but it's unlikely that folks are exactly clamoring for space in this event! I should check around and see if anyone wants to attend with me!
This, in spite of the fact that the post had 120 Facebook likes for an event with a capacity of 20.
A couple weeks passed:
Hmm, maybe I don't really actually know anyone that would be interested in this kind of thing!
Cut to one week before the event:
Hey, maybe I'll see if my lovely mother would like to attend with me! I should give her a ring!
She expressed interest. I hung up the phone and went back to doing nothing.
Finally, three days prior to the event:
It is time! Tickets will not be purchased!
Who could have guessed that after all of that, they would be sold out?
In spite of the fact that I wasn't particularly surprised by this outcome, I was crestfallen.
Fortunately, sometimes I'm like Jerry in that Seinfeld episode where things always even out for him. When Elaine is up, George is down, and vice versa; it establishes a sense of balance for middleman Jerry.
The universe was trying to even things out for me when, just a week after having missed out on the bread making farm-fresh festivities, I absently clicked on a Mark Bittman column in the New York Times.
Reading the column reminded my of how I missed his regular Minimalist column, which subsequently reminded me that I bookmarked his 25 favorites list from long ago with the intention of trying a bunch of them at some point.
What was on that list again?
Checking the bookmark revealed a serendipitous result: number 18 on the list is No-Knead Bread!
It was settled. Bread making would be happening after all.
This time, I'm not going to wait.
No-knead bread with avocado chive compound butter
Making bread has always intimidated me. It has always seemed to require a lot of finesse and technique—you know, things I don't have. But Bittman was adamant that this recipe was so fool proof that a reasonably precocious small child could use it to achieve the desired result.
And he was right. It is ridiculously simple, and the product is excellent: crisp and chewy crust, soft and airy interior with the nutty flavor of solid fermentation. Note that I've made this recipe twice now: once using only bread flour, and once about half and half bread flour and whole wheat flour. The bread flour version was distinctly tastier with better mouth feel, but the whole wheat was nice as well.
Don't fall prey to intimidation for so long they way I did. Make this. Make it, spread it with avocado compound butter, wrap it in foil, then throw it in a backpack and take a hike. When you get to the top of the mountain, bask in the sun, and dig in.
I can personally recommend it.
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
- ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
- Wheat bran for dusting dough
- In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add 1 1/2 to 1 5/8 cups of water and lightly stir to combine. Dough will be sticky and very wet. Cover bowl with cling wrap and allow to rest on counter overnight, at least 12 hours and up to about 18 hours.
- Dust a work surface with flour and turn dough out of bowl. The dough will be sticky and will want to stick to the bowl; you can use your fingers to gently pull it out. Fold dough over on itself several times and form it into a ball.
- Generously dust a cotton towel with flour and wheat bran. Gently flip the dough onto towel so it's resting seam side down and generously dust dough ball with flour and bran. Cover with a second towel and let dough rise for about 2 hours.
- 15 or 20 minutes before the dough is ready, preheat oven to 450 degrees and put a heavy lidded pot, such as a cast iron dutch oven, into the oven as it heats.
- When ready, carefully turn the dough out of the towel into the heated pot, seam side up. Cover the pot with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake until loaf browns, approximately 15 or 25 minutes more.
- Allow to cool before slicing.
Avocado chive compound butter
- 3 small avocados
- 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 ounces unsalted butter
- 2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- Remove flesh from avocados and combine with other ingredients in food processor.
- Process until smooth. Spoon into a small bowl and cover with cling wrap. Refrigerate for at least a half hour before serving.