No Knead Sourdough (in terracotta molds)

The Egyptians were known to bake their breads into all kinds of shapes, from triangles to the more elaborate.     We’re gonna keep it simple today, and use a clean Terracotta flower pot to bake bread.

Did I mention today’s recipe is no knead?  No, you don’t need to knead if you have a lot of time to spare. 24 hours in fact. This bread “rises” for a whole day, developing gluten content and a great, sour flavor in a heavily fermented dough.

With a recipe like this, you can understand why the rise of fermented bread goes hand in hand with large scale breweries.  To make this loaf, you’re basically making a beer mash, and then baking it instead of brewing it.  Beer and bread go hand and hand, and nobody knew that better than the Ancient Egyptians.

Thanks to Kathy Caufman’s “Cooking in Ancient Civilizations” for the terracotta method and the idea of using wheat and semolina flour to make a coarse, kind of imitation ancient flour.

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NO KNEAD SOURDOUGH

(makes 2 small loaves)

350g whole wheat flour
150g semolina flour
350ml warm water
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup sourdough starter or 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
4 tbsp lard
2 6″ diameter Terracotta pots

Combine the water and sourdough starter (or yeast) in a large bowl. Let activate for 5 minutes, then add the salt and flours, stirring together with a wooden spoon.  You should form a very wet dough.  If it has a lot of structure, add a little more water. If you can handle it with your hand, add a little more water.

Give the dough a sort of spoon kneading for half a minute, then cover with plastic and wait for 15 minutes.  Knead with the spoon again, recover, and repeat the process after 15 more minutes.

Now cover, and leave at room temperature for 18-24 hours! Yes, that long. We want a lot of proofing and a lot of flavor.

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Look at all those sexy bubbles.

The next day, prepare the pots. Rub the insides with a thin coating of lard.  Place in the oven, preheat it to 300F, then turn the oven off once its up to temp and let the pots cool to room temperature. This will give us a sort of ancient non stick coating.

When you’re almost ready to bake, turn out the proofed dough onto a surface coated lightly in semolina and divide in two.  Lightly shape each into a ball and cover loosely with plastic.  Let proof for one more hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450F, with the terracotta pots on a baking sheet inside.  When the loaves have proofed for their hour and the oven and pots are blazing hot.  Using oven mits or dry kitchen towels, carefully drop the bread onto the baking sheet and invert the pots over them.  If the loaves are too large to fit, fold them underneath themselves a bit to compress the circumference.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn off the oven but do not open the door. Let the bread cook in the cooling oven another 30 minutes, then take it out and let cool inside the mold.

When everything is cooled off, the mold should lift right up, and you should have a nicely rounded sourdough loaf full of proofing holes, the mark of flavor.  If any of your crust didn’t make it under the pot like in the picture below, simply break it off, nice and easy.

HOF Episode 6: Lands of the Nile (Egypt)

Egypt needs no introduction.  But here’s one anyway! The ancient people along the Nile built a civilization out of grain like Mesopotamia, but diverged on their own unique path, transforming their food surplus into the greatest monuments the world has ever seen.  An overview of Ancient Egyptian history in its entirety, through the lens of food and cooking.

Music by Michael Levy of Ancient Lyre. His original composition “Awe of the Aten” and the whole album The Ancient Egyptian Harp and much more are available from all major digital music stores and streaming sites.

AVAILABLE ON ITUNES.
Please leave a review to help spread the word!

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NATUFIAN BARLEY BREAD

Sometimes eating authentically is not eating deliciously. At least not to our spoiled modern palates.

While still using modern milled flours, this recipe attempts to recreate something like ancient foragers in the Near East might have eaten.  The Natufians were the first society we know of to switch from foraging to intense cultivation, and it changed the world forever. They were still dependent on hunting and gathering, but also began guarding and storing plots of wheat and barley, and it changed them dramatically.

This was the beginning of civilization as we know it today… it’s also unleavened and not exactly palatable…

But to the Natufians  it was everything. Their new permanent villages had giant querns and grinding stones just for milling and shaping this hard to process cereal crop, and ritual houses for the necessary magic to make it work.  Here’s a recipe that might be something like what they threw in the ashes of their fires.

FAIR WARNING: This bread is dense and chewy!! Good for croutons or toast but… not much else.

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MODERN ASH BREAD

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300g all purpose flour (about 2.5 cups)
200g whole wheat flour (about 1.5 cups)
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp dry active yeast
1 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. olive oil
350ml warm beer or water (scant 1.5 cups)

This recipe takes the ancient cooking technique, and gives to it modern ingredients, making a stretchier dough with a lighter texture that’s more enjoyable to modern palates. All the smoky flavor of the ashes without the  unleavened chewiness of the more authentic recipe.  This is a great flatbread recipe even for a regular oven, but nothing tastes quite like the ash.

Activate the yeast in the water. After five minutes, whisk in the honey, olive oil, and salt.  Add to flour and stir until a rough dough forms.

 

 

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HOW TO MAKE ASH BREAD

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Just what it sounds like.  Today I made bread in the ashes of the fire.

 

This has become known as kind of an Australian food. But that’s because European colonists copied the Aboriginal peoples who had been doing it for thousands of years.

Many modern people with nomadic traditions, such as the Berbers of North Africa, still cook bread this way, but the roots go deep back into prehistory. Evidence for this practice can be found in ancient cultures all over the world from the Americas, to aboriginal Australia, and most famously in the middle east.

 

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