Bread-making Attempt #1: Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

I love bread but it can be hard to find what I consider ‘normal’ white bread overseas. Of course, Europe isn’t generally a problem. France is heaven. Germany’s bread is a seed and nut-crusted wonder. There are also deliciously addictive flat breads in Afghanistan, mouth-watering French baguettes in Zambia and a close second in Cambodia. That said, the bread selection in other parts of the world can be less than par. Barbados had really dense coconut bread and heavy salt breads, Botswana was a lost cause as far as white bread goes, South Korea’s bread was loaded with sugar, Thailand… well, I’m sure there was bread in Thailand but I never saw any. Heck, even back home it’s about 30 minutes to an hour’s drive to the nearest French bakery.

While I love to cook, I’m no baker. In fact, I’m a terrible baker. The most I can manage without a full-on stress attack are muffins, zucchini or banana bread. In recent years, with the addition of an old bread-maker passed down from my mother, I tried my hand at Irish soda bread. It was edible and I got to control the ingredients but it wasn’t anything I’d write home about.

While I love learning about other cultures and cuisines, sometimes you need some familiar comfort food to help get you through the day. So out of desperation, I eventually bought a 2nd bread-maker with 220 V. / 50 Hz to use overseas.

Unsatisfying attempts at bread-making with the machine led me to discover several no-knead bread recipes. I’ve been looking forward to trying one of the many recipes available online. Unfortunately, there was one little thing stopping me… I didn’t have a Dutch/French oven – that is until today!

Naturally, I started with Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe made famous by Mark Bittman of the New York Times way back in 2006.  I’d heard this recipe was so easy that even a 6 year old could make it. Sounds like the perfect recipe for me! Nevertheless, I don’t exactly have the “baker’s touch” so I followed the recipe exactly using my new 5 1/2 QT Le Creuset Dutch oven.

No-Knead Bread Jim Lahey’s Recipe, The New York Times, 2006

This recipe was VERY sticky and took a LOT of patience. From start to finish, this bread took almost 24 hours. The end result was way better than anything that’s come out of my bread-maker. That said, I found it to be very heavy and chewy. The bread was really crusty but I found it a bit too hard. Sadly, it only got harder as we approached dinner time a few hours later so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with delicate dental work!

I’ll be playing around with other no-knead bread recipes over the coming month. If you have any to share, please add them in the comment section.

What do you think? Have you tried making no-knead bread?
I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below.
Speedy No-Knead Bread Revisited – Jim Lahey’s Recipe, The New York Times, 2008

Recipe: Chicken Paprika | Paprikás Csirke

Chicken Paprika (or Paprikás Csirke in Hungarian) is one of my favourite Hungarian dishes.

Traditional paprikás recipes – as with goulash and pörkölt – combine fat, onions and paprika to create a rich harmony of flavours known as the “Trilogy” of Hungarian cuisine.

The following recipe was adapted from cooking classes, cookbooks, the advice of friends and of course trial and error. Although it takes some time to prepare and cook, the recipe itself is fairly easy and the end result is sure to please!

Serves: 4

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Serve with: Spaetzle /Spätzle (or Hungarian Nokedli)

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken (apx. 2.5 lbs) or 4 chicken legs
  • 1 – 2 med. sized Dutch onions
  • 5 tbsp pork lard (*can substitute with oil)
  • 3 tbsp paprika powder (*I use 1 tbsp hot, 2 tbsp mild)
  • Salt & freshly cracked peppercorn
  • 2 Hungarian sweet white pepper (*Can substitute with yellow bell pepper but you should avoid Red as it will be a bit sweet. Out of necessity, I used 2 red bell peppers and added 1 yellow hot wax pepper)
  • 2 med. sized tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1-2 tbsp flour (*for thickening)

Instructions:

  1. Divide chicken into pieces. Leave the skin on as it will help keep the meat together and lock in flavours.
  2. Finely chop the onions.
  3. Heat oil in a deep pan. Gently cook the onions, stirring occasionally. When  the onions are soft and translucent, remove pan from the heat source and sprinkle paprika over the onions. Mix well.
  4. Add the chicken to your pan and fry over high heat for about 5 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat and season with salt and pepper. Cover with lid. *Note: This dish should cook in its own juices. Add a little water only to prevent burning.
  6. Remove seeds from peppers and slice into rings or chop. Reserve a few slices for garnish. Seed tomato and chop into small pieces. (The seeds and juice dilute the mixture and won’t add flavour).
  7. Add pepper and tomato to chicken. Cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is fully cooked. The chicken is cooked when the meat easily separates from the bone.
  8. In a separate bowl, combine some of the sour cream with a bit flour. Stir until smooth. Add a bit of the cooking juices to the bowl and mix well. Repeat this step 2 or 3 times.
  9. Once chicken is cooked, remove from pan. Optional: At this point, you may remove the skin from the meat.
  10. Add sour cream to the reduced juices. Mix well.
  11. Return chicken to pan. Simmer gently for 4-5 minutes.

Tips!

Onions, lard and paprika are the ‘Trilogy’ of Hungarian cuisine. To release the full flavour and aroma of paprika, it needs to be added to hot lard, butter or oil. However, because of it’s high sugar content, paprika can burn quickly! To prevent burning, remove your dish from the heat before adding the paprika powder to the hot oil while stirring continuously.

All of my recipes are a work in progress.

Please share your suggestions, tips or stories in the comments section.