Things have been fairly quiet on the blog while I make some final arrangements to be truly “in business” as a photographer in the state of North Carolina. I am contemplating a very large order of roll paper in anticipation of opening up my HP Z3200 to making prints for fellow photographers. Hopefully, that will include some of my dear readers here!
However, most of my new work of late has been around the house, especially Elizabeth’s garden which is now producing lots of tomatoes. This afternoon I made a photo of our harvested tomatoes that are ripening on the kitchen counter…or atop the microwave, to be more accurate. In years past, other creatures have gotten to Elizabeth’s tomatoes before she had a chance to pick them, so this season she’s trying to pick them when they’ve begun to ripen, and allowing them to finish the process indoors. So far, so good!
Over the past couple of months, Elizabeth and I have been working on a project together: a combined cooking, gardening, and home improvement blog that we’ve named With One Cat in the Yard. Today I posted about making Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread (aka No-Work Bread), which was popularized in a Mark Bittman column in The New York Times in 2006, and I thought I would cross-post it formy readers here. Our new project is certainly not a photography blog–I’ve included the technical details for the photos in this post, but you won’t find them at With One Cat in the Yard–but I hope everyone will take a look. More to come!
Flour, salt, yeast, water, and time perseverance
I’m in my third week of attempting to make good bread. I’ve always enjoyed crusty bread, but I’ve never found the price of five dollars for a boule to be particularly attractive, so I rarely buy it.
Elizabeth suggested trying a recipe that inspired many food bloggers a few years ago: Jim Lahey’s “No Knead Bread” featured in Mark Bittman’s column in The New York Times. The recipe became so popular that publishers perceived a demand for a book, so Lahey wrote My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method to further explain his method and offer variations. Both Lahey and Bittman emphasize that the process is so simple that a child could make it happen, although I don’t think my mom ever would have trusted me to drop dough into a 450° F stock pot and put it back inside an oven. Sometimes I wonder why anyone would trust me to do that now.
My first effort was not completely successful, nor was my second, but the third was just right. I was skeptical that I could make a loaf of bread worthy of an artisan bakery, but lo and behold, it’s not only possible, but has quickly become one of my new favorite breads. Not only does it look amazing and have a satisfying, crackling crust, it’s also pretty tasty. Now, it’s not the best, most flavorful bread ever, but it does have a faint sourdough flavor of which I am quite fond (on account of the lengthy fermentation period) and it’s fantastic for dipping in soup, olive oil, or as sandwich bread.
The basic recipe is stunningly simple: three cups of bread flour, one and a half cuts of water, one and a quarter teaspoon of salt, and a quarter teaspoon of yeast are briskly mixed together in a bowl and then left alone overnight: at least 12 hours, but extra time does seem to yield better results. While the original recipe calls for 1 and 5/8 cups of water, the video on the Web site and also the recipes I found on several other blogs all called for one and a half cups, and indeed that seemed to work well. After the lengthy first rise, the dough is rolled into a ball, allowed to rise again, and then baked in a pot inside of a conventional oven at 450° F. This creates a “fake oven,” as Lahey refers to it in the aforementioned video, meaning that it simulates the steam-injected ovens found in professional bakeries. The moisture of the dough is trapped within the pot and circulates throughout, ensuring a crisp crust.
Note:the recipes I follow are at the end of the post!
For my first few loaves I used Elizabeth’s hard-anodized, eight-quart stock pot. The current thinking is that anywhere from three to five quarts is just about “right” for No Knead Bread. (The original recipe called for a six to eight quart pot.) Combined with our concern that such high temperatures for an hour and fifteen minutes might deteriorate the non-stick coating, I purchased a Lodge five-quart cast iron Dutch oven on Amazon.
However, the sticking point to this bread–literally–is not the equipment needed, but the second rise of the dough. After a few attempts, I believe I’ve found an effective alternative to the original recipe. I offer you my experiences with this bread so that you can learn from my mistakes and quickly get to the point: great bread at a great price with relatively little effort.
Last week I hinted that I was beginning to explore baking my own bread. For the past couple of days I’ve been working with “No Knead Bread,” which became popular in 2006 with Mark Bittman’s article about baker Jim Lahey’s process that involves quickly mixing a rough dough and then letting it rise for at least 12 hours. I hope to perfect it soon, and with it, introduce everyone to a project we’ve been working on here in Durham for a few weeks now. More to come!
Craters on the surface: light wheat bread recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice featured on Smitten Kitchen | Canon 7D and 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens | Exposed 1/60 sec. @ f/8, ISO 200 | 580 EX II Speedlite fired in the DIY Beauty Dish on camera left.
Over the past month Elizabeth and I have been working on a new project I’ll be unveiling soon. Part of it is a new-found interest of mine: baking bread. I’ve never considered myself a good candidate for the Atkins diet because I simply cannot get enough bread in my life. Elizabeth has a bread machine that she purchased from a second hand store, and while neither one of us particularly likes the loaves it makes, I’ve found that it’s a fantastic dough-making machine–plus it takes care of the first rise. Pictured here is the top crust of a very basic, but very functional sandwich bread: Light Wheat Bread from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and featured on the Smitten Kitchen.
I really haven’t photographed food before–not in any serious fashion–so when I found myself confronted with a silver platter of chocolate-covered potato chips yesterday at the Candy Factory in Columbia, Mo., I was thrown for a loop.
There was no chance I would use existing light: it was a mix of daylight and tungsten, and exposing for the chips coated in which chocolate would have meant underexposing the others significantly. So I set up two lights bouncing into umbrellas at either end of the silver tray. It took me a while for all that I learned about photographing metal–and look how little of it wound up in the final frame!–and its family of angles to come back to me (about 50 chimped frames) but once the reflections were under control, it just became a matter of the ratio between the key and the fill lights.
Ultimately, the SB-80-DX, on camera left, was fired at a third stop under 1/2 power, and the 550EX on camera right was fired at 1/16 power. Could I have balanced those a bit? Probably. The shadows cast by the milk chocolate potato chips bother me a bit. I’ll file that in the “next time” category.