That’s right I’m quoting Jesus Christ Superstar at you.
Sometimes I get really behind with what’s hot in food blogging. I mean this sincerely, not in some kind of “oh, aren’t I above it all” manner. I’m really just a bit useless. I’ve completely missed the waka with matcha-flavoured-everything, have never been brave enough to make macarons, I may never get an SLR lens, and I’ve only once used the word “umami” with any confidence. And only this weekend did I get around to paying any attention to the no-knead bread trend care of the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day crew. Seriously, people have been going nuts about this posse since about 2007 which is tantamount to forever in blog years. For whatever I lack though, I bet there’s not many food bloggers who could keep you abreast of both the local music scene and the non-local musical scene, even if you have no interest in either!
Witness my incredibly complicated bread plaiting skills. I’m not sure if it’s even really challah if there’s only three strands to your braid. Like mine.
So, the credo of these breadmakers is that you can easily incorporate breadmaking into your everyday life, using their relatively revolutionary no-knead method. It seems so simple that one wonders why we’re always told to knead bread in the first place, an almost wilfully difficult move. I came across them while hunting for a recipe for challah, that soft, sweet Jewish bread. Let it be known that I generally ignore Valentine’s Day – apart from the fact that it’s a bit nauseating and awkward, it seems disloyal to my aggrieved, unvalentined younger self to pretend like I’m accustomed to it now. But I do enjoy surprising Tim with a bit of dramatic baking now and then and blaming Valentine’s Day for covering the kitchen and myself in flour seems reasonable. I also anticipated that we could have any leftovers as French Toast for dinner on Monday night. Challah – the non-gift that keeps on giving.
Nigella Lawson, the person I usually turn to like a flower leaning towards the sun, despite repeatedly exclaiming her love of challah has never included a recipe in her books for it. For shame, Nidge. A quick search through Foodgawker and Tastespotting revealed how many, many bloggers were raving about the no-knead method. Now, I actually like kneading. I like the entire bread process. But I also am all for innovation and was curious to see if all this talk was justified. Plus this recipe included a hearty amount of butter, so my trust increased.
Isn’t it mountainous? Don’t you just want to climb it?
The no-knead method removes the very part of the process that most people aren’t keen on. All you do is stir together ingredients, leave them for two hours, shape, leave, and bake. No kneading whatsoever. It felt a little bizarre not plunging my hands into the soft dough but it rose rapidly, was very easy to shape into traditional-ish plaits, and rose almost alarmingly on its second sitting.
To be fair, recipe probably chosen because of the high butter content, not the no-knead concept.
1 1/2 tablespoons (or sachets) instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
125g melted butter
1/2 cup honey
7 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, mix together everything except the flour. Then add the flour and stir to make a stiff, soft dough. Cover loosely (don’t seal it off) and leave for 2 hours at room temperature till risen and flattened on top. At this point, divide the dough in half and divide each of these halves into three balls. With one set of three dough balls, roll them between your hands to make longer strands and plait them together on a tray lined with a sheet of baking paper. Repeat with the other three doughballs. Cover loosely with foil and leave to rise for a further hour and a half. Brush your loaves with a beaten egg and sprinkle with poppyseeds or sesame seeds if you wish, and bake at 180 C/350 F for 40 minutes.
Seriously, I think I’ve made breakfast cereal more complex than this. It’s every bit as simple as they claim. In terms of deliciousness this bread is off the chain. No mere sweetness pervades this flaky, moist bread – it has a honeyed, layered flavour that somehow cries out for even more butter to be spread across its feathery-soft cut slices. It’s just unbelievably good, especially considering the complete lack of effort that went into it.
Oh, baby do you know what that’s worth? Ooh heaven is a place on earth.
So, despite the fact that this bread already basically tastes like French Toast, I decided to do the whole breakfast-for-dinner thing again tonight. Slices of challah were dipped into cinnamon-warm, whisked eggs. A couple of precious rashers of bacon were fried in butter and set aside. Into that resiny, salty butter went the eggy bread. Once that was done, the whole lot was drizzled with the tiniest capful of actual maple syrup. It’s not something we could afford to eat every day, on too many levels, but it makes for one heck of a special dinner. We hardly ever have bacon (having lofty ideals of purchasing only “happy pig” products is also very expensive) and this is the first time I’ve ever bought real maple syrup. It was certainly a heady experience – salty, darkly sweet, bacony, eggy, buttery…pretty magical stuff.
The only problem with this bread is that it makes me incredibly drowsy. I can actually feel my body growing heavy and tired after eating it. While growing sleepier I imagine baking a giant challah so I can just slumber on top of it, chewing pinched handfuls when I require sustenance…
Title brought to you by: The Last Supper from Jesus Christ Superstar. I saw this musical in 1994 with all manner of well-known New Zealanders in it – Jay Laga’ia, Margaret Urlich, Frankie Stevens, Tim Beveridge… It affected me greatly – I was into fashion design at the time and can still remember drawing countless, perhaps slightly misguided pictures of Mary Magdalene sitting on a donkey, wearing a plunging burgundy velvet dress, multicoloured shawl, and Janet Jackson-style microphone. if you ever hunt down the cast recording it’s so rewarding. By which I mean it’s like crack for the ears.
Music these days:
Electric Wire Hustle, They Don’t Want. We saw this super smooth local trio at San Francisco Bath House on Saturday night, and they were very cool. Like, they launched into their encore with a five minute drum solo. Mesmerising stuff.
Lullaby of Broadway from the original cast recording of 42nd Street, which I found at Slow Boat Records this weekend – I think this might have been the first musical I ever saw, in about 1991 with most the fabulous Australian cast – Nancye Hayes, Leonie Page (who I’d go on to see in West Side Story and Me and My Girl), and so on. I distinctly remember Mum saying she wouldn’t buy the cast recording it if it didn’t have the tap dance sounds on it, luckily for me it did. That cassette got absolutely thrashed, but I can’t imagine how they recorded it all. Listening to it again, in all its old-Broadway pomp and circumstance reminds me why I loved this so much in the first place – revival, anyone?
Next time: This week is very busy as we’re gearing up for Homegrown this weekend, it’s likely to be pretty enormous. I’m going to be working there all day till it’s done and it will be exhausting but hopefully pretty rewarding and enjoyable also. But exhausting. So I’d better steer clear of the challah if I don’t want to end up fast asleep, snoring softly in a guitar case somewhere. And I will make that vegan banana cake!