Trying My Patience Fast No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread

I'm a very impatient person. I think I always have been but as I've gotten older I have gotten worse. I'm the person huffing and puffing behind you in line at the supermarket when you pay for a quart of milk with a personal check. I'm the one muttering "keep it moving people" when a crowd of tourists stops foot traffic while standing right at the top of my subway entrance as they stare mouths agape at the site where John Lennon was murdered. I tell cab drivers which route to take on the rare occasions that I take a taxi because, frankly, I can usually get there (wherever ‘there’ is) more quickly using mass transit or my feet. You might wonder where I’m rushing to and really, it’s everywhere. In addition to being impatient I run about five minutes late to everything, hence the rushing. You’d think those two characteristics would run counter to each other yet, somehow, my psyche is lucky enough to house them both.
I’ve tried to calm down, be more easy-come, easy-go and leave enough time to get to my destination. First it was yoga. That didn’t work. I found the enforced relaxation to be well, forced. Instead I made lists (food, birthday presents, movies to see) while lying in shavasana instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing—acting like a corpse.
I’ve also tried acupuncture. Listening to the wind chime-y music and lying on the little table in the dark with needles poking out of my body in every which way only made me feel trapped and claustrophobic and again, my mind raced. Raced to the growling of my stomach or how I was going to check out that 99 cent store I’d passed on my way to this Carmela Soprano look-a-like’s office (weird for an acupuncturist, right?) or when the Hell is that woman coming back in here to de-needle me?!
At a certain point I guess you just have to accept we are all hard wired in specific ways. I’ll never be Zen, calm or patient and please don’t ever tell me to relax because then I will be even more unrelaxed plus I’ll have to hate you.

One thing people have suggested as a calm-inducing tool is bread-baking. My resistance has come from the reason they want me to try to bake bread in the first place; I’m impatient. All that proofing, kneading, rising, and waiting just seems like such a big bore—especially since I live in walking distance of great bakeries. And I don’t even eat that much bread. Sure, we made bread in pastry school but it was under such luxurious circumstances that I knew couldn’t be replicated in my tiny red kitchen. We had a proofer that was as big as a refrigerator, professional ovens with steam injection and, most importantly, we had Chef Michelle (who is allergic to gluten, what torture for her!) monitoring our every move.
But, the other day I was going through my recipe files as I often do when I should be doing something else (like darning the 10 holey socks that are sitting on my coffee table waiting to be whole again) and I came upon Mark Bittman’s follow-up to his famous “No Knead Bread” creation which appeared in the New York Times in 2006. This clipping contained two recipes, “Speedy No-Knead Bread” and “Fast No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread.” With words like “speedy” and “fast” I couldn’t resist giving one a try. I went with whole wheat since I had whole wheat flour and it’s better for you.

And this is where the story of failure began. You will see from the recipe below that although there is no kneading involved there are several hours of waiting which necessitate you planning your day in four, one and one hour increments. Also, after purchasing the rye flour and the yeast I realized I bought “Active Dry Yeast” and the recipe uses “Instant Yeast.” An emergency call to not only my brother but also to my brother-in-law (both of whom are excellent bread bakers but unfortunately, don’t live near enough to keep me in bread) yielded the same advice. They felt if I activated one packet of the dry yeast and then used half of the mixture but reduced the amount of water called for in the recipe by the ¼ cup I was adding with the yeast I would be safe. Don’t you have a headache already? I did. But I forged ahead.
All I can say is that throughout this day-long process my apartment reeked like a brewery and I smelled like both Laverne and Shirley—probably because I didn’t wear their protective hair kerchiefs. When the result was a heavy, 1 ½ inch high brick, and it took way longer than the 45 minutes it was supposed to take to bake so that I was (shock) late to the movies, I really did lose my patience and became so much more irritable than I would have been had I just coughed up the $4.98 for the multi-grained deliciousness of Eli’s Health Loaf or given up bread for Lent despite not being Catholic.
The best comment came from my brother-in-law who sweetly gave it a try, “Wow, I’ve never tasted bread that used yeast as a flavoring.”

The good thing to come from this is now I have thrown the gauntlet at myself. Because not wanting to feel like a failure trumps assuaging my impatience I am going to try a real, non-fast, non-speedy loaf this weekend. Stay tuned….

Trying My Patience Fast No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread
adapted from the New York Times, October 8, 2008
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole rye flour
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
1 teaspoon instant yeast (or activate dry active yeast as per instructions on the package and use 1/2 of the resulting amount)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
oil as needed

Combine flours, cornmeal, instant yeast (or activated dry active yeast) and salt in a large bowl.
Add 1 1/2 cups water (or 1 1/4 if you use activated active dry yeast) and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
Let dough rest about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Oil a standard loaf pan (8x4 or 9x4 inches).

Lightly oil hands and shape dough into a rough rectangle. Put in in pan, pressing it out to the edges.

Brush top with a bit more oil.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 1 hour more.
Preheat oven to 350.

Bake bread about 45 minutes (or in my case, 1 hour 20 minutes!) until loaf reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees.

Remove bread from pan and cool on rack.
Yield: 1 flat, 1 1/2 inch high brick-like loaf

1 comment:

jane said...

Miranda... we share a mutual friend in Brian D. he and i went to nursery school together! He sent me your link because another old childhood friend (a Master Potter) has created a Bread Pot. i have been madlybaking "No Knead Slow Bread" my favorite so far is my seeded rye! i love your blog. :)
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