No Need to Knead Bread

Most people, even those who do their fair share of cooking, never bake their own bread, not because they don’t like the taste of fresh, hot out of the oven bread, but because it is just so much work and makes such a mess. When people think of making homemade bread, they typically have visions of a mother or grandmother laboriously kneading bread in kitchen completely covered in a layer of flour, but thanks to a brilliantly simple breakthrough, you can now make your own bread without any kneading at all.

When I say that you can make bread without kneading it, I’m not talking about buying a bread machine or some fancy mixer; I mean that you can make great bread with just flour, water, salt, and a small bit of yeast with about 2 minutes’ worth of active preparation time. All you need to do is mix the flour and salt in a bowl with a larger than usual amount of water and a lower than usual amount of yeast.

Though the active cooking time is minimal, the process does take much longer as you will need to allow the mixture to rise overnight, so if you have people coming over on short notice you will have to pick up a loaf at the grocery store. Once you let the bread make its initial rise over 12-18 hours, then knock it down, put it in a well-oiled loaf pan and let it rise again for 2-3 hours, at which point you pop it in the oven and bake it as you would with any other bread. This works with virtually any kind of bread you want to make, from classic white French bread to any kind of whole grain you’re into.

This is how all bread should be baked from now on. Normally when you find a way to cut down on the work involved in the kitchen there is some sacrifice of quality or taste, but that is not the case with the no knead method. In fact, most bakers will tell you that the prolonged rising period helps to build more flavour. The reality is that you probably wouldn’t be able to detect the difference between a slow rise, no knead bread and a quick rise, kneaded bread, but that’s not the point; the reason for using the no knead method is that it allows you to make a loaf of bread that tastes as least as good as the traditional method but is only a fraction of the effort and mess.

Why Does Anyone Buy Artificial Vanilla?

Last week I ran out of vanilla extract. I’m not sure when or where I bought that bottle of vanilla, but it must have been years ago; it could have come with the house for all I know. In any case, the bottle real vanilla extract was acquired before I became a serious home cook. Since I’ve taken a more active interest in cooking I’ve noticed that everyone recommends that you the real extract versus the artificial stuff. I was actually surprised to see that my vanilla was in fact the natural stuff.

When I went to the grocery store to get a new bottle they had the real and artificial stuff side by side and the real stuff was about three dollars or so more expensive. This was a decent sized bottle that will probably last me several years, so I couldn’t help but wonder who would bother buying the artificial stuff.

I made banana bread this evening and I used a quarter teaspoon of vanilla extract. It’s not like there are many recipes out there that call for a half cup of vanilla extract. A bottle of vanilla extract for most people will last several years, so the extra three or four dollars every couple of years will be imperceptible. If you are literally so destitute that you can’t spare an extra three dollars for something that will last for years then you probably aren’t spending your money on vanilla extract anyway. If you are buying artificial vanilla extract there is a pretty good chance that you are cheap.