11 September 2012

Book Review: Suzanne Dunaway's "No Need to Knead"

I have a small, but ever changing collection of cookbooks. 

I've discovered that I am, by nature, very cyclical.  Some years I cook a lot, some years I cook very little (same goes for blogging).  Baking follows the very same formula.

My first breads were recipes printed off the internet or from those ubiquitous "fundraiser" cookbooks that churches, schools, and garden clubs put together every month or two.  (Shhh, I've finally donated all those books, don't tell.)  Needless to say, none of those breads came out very well.  And I was left with a distinct dislike for breadmaking (though not, of course, bread eating).

I did not have the patience for "proper" breadmaking (or should I say bread rising) as a younger woman, and ordered "No Need to Knead" due solely to its promise of "easy" breadmaking.  Lucking, I got more than that.

"No Need to Knead" was placed on my shelf and pulled down for entertainment value every once in a while.  I attempted the whole wheat bread recipe, and then ignored the title for several years.

Fast forward to this year, where I am cooking and baking up a storm ... including lots of bread items.

NNTK is a baking assortment book that covers Dunaway's bakery opening experience (slow and fast breads), family recipes (slow recipes for the most part), and little snippets she has picked up along the way.

Every recipe I've made since I actually slowed down and read the recipe, and followed-ish said recipe, has come out superbly.

This book contains most of my favorite bread recipes.

I recommend:
Anadama Bread
Pane Rustico
Skillet Corn Bread (cut down on the oil)

Hand's down, the Foccacia recipe is the hubby's favorite.  I've made it with whole (red) wheat, whole (white) wheat, and bread flour (and a mix).  I've added rosemary, mushrooms, and/or spices.  It is an amazingly simple recipe that can be made quickly (60 minutes start to finish) or refrigerated overnight for dough development.

I think the best Foccacia I made was a mix of whole wheat (red) and bread flour with pan fried fresh portabello mushrooms.  This loaf lasted less than one day.

My favorite recipe is probably the "Anadama Bread."  It is a flour based bread with just a hint of cornmeal.  Not a true southern cornbread like the "Skillet Corn Bread," but flavorful in its own way.  This loaf tends to last about half a week (this is opposed to the breads I make that no one eats, and go bad after a week and a half).

I also make it with a mix of whole wheat (red) and bread flour.

Almost guaranteed, if Suzanne writes that a recipe will make one loaf, it will make two for me.  So I cut her recipes in half automatically.

I've also enjoyed playing with baking containers, since we are a crust family and approve of any method that increases the surface area of the crust.  My most successful to date was foccacia on a pie plate, but I need more metal ware for bread purposes - I get a better bottom and side crust with metal than with porcelain.

I have found her timing pretty spot on, and my oven is usually within 5 to 10 minutes of her estimate.

Rising is the one thing I have played with continuously.  I usually leave my dough to rise 2x as long as recommended.  In the heat of our southern summers, I will let bread rise on the patio.  If there isn't enough heat in 90+ degree F weather (32 C) to get dough to rise, you know something is wrong with your yeast!

I highly recommend this book, both for the recipes and for the conversation writing tone.  If you are looking for a simple bread book that is fuss free, consider Dunaway's "No Need to Knead."

For my non-NNTK favorite bread recipes, head over to Tammy's Recipes - http://www.tammysrecipes.com/.

I've made her crackers, bagels, and cornmeal crescent rolls.  Everything I've tried has found a place in my personal keeper recipe binder.

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