For the last couple of days, the talk has been all about landslides and road closures on the blogs and in the news. Not a Native, who I firmly believe is not nearly as big of a jackass as he comes across, left this comment over at the Humboldt Herald:
This is a dream come true for the local survivalists who’ve got their year of vittles and ammo stashed away and those who say they live from ‘local’ resources. So who needs the 101 anyway?
If all roads in and out of Humboldt were suddenly closed, my kinfolk and I would be sitting on top of a mountain overlooking Rio Dell with our guns and our garden and our wood and our spring water and our moonshine and our antibiotics and our chickens. We’d be alright for a couple of years at least. Am I proud of this fact?
So I thought this might be the perfect time to talk about making your own bread. If you’re going to survive along with the Xanax clan, it’s something you might want to know how to do.
I had heard about some sort of miraculous No Knead bread that had become a super trend a few years ago because of an article in the New York Times, but in keeping with the Humboldt tradition, I don’t pick up on trends right away. And then I hang onto them far longer than the rest of the country as well. I think I was still wearing parachute pants in 1997.
The idea of making bread with only four ingredients and no kneading sounded suspiciously lazy, and yet oh-so-appealing, so a few days ago I gave it a try. And you should too. It really is delicious, inexpensive and super easy.
First, you need a dutch oven. I have a huge enamel covered Lodge beast that I love from the depths of my soul. It’s just like one of those fancy Le Creuset ones that people use to cook things like Boeuf Bourguignon for their snooty in-laws but it costs about $250 less.
The one problem is that the plastic handle is only oven safe to 400 degrees, and the bread needs to cook at 475. Burning, melting plastic doesn’t seem like it would be very conducive to good bread, so I went to Shafer’s and switched the lid out for this metal cabinet pull. It’s prettier too.
You only need four ingredients: 3 cups of flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of yeast and 1 1/3 cups of cool water.
Stir together the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Then add the water and mix it until it’s shaggy and sticky and naughty. Okay, it doesn’t really look naughty – that word just seems to go with shaggy and sticky.
Cover it with a towel and let it sit in a warm place for 12-18 hours. When it’s done, it will smell yeasty and look a little like a gross bubbly science experiment.
Put some flour on your work surface and use your hands to take the dough out of the bowl. It will pull away from the bowl in these cool long strands that mean the gluten has developed. Sorry my hands were too full of developed gluten to take a picture. Fold the edges of the dough over, tuck them in and form it into a ball. You can either put it back in the bowl or just cover it with a towel and put it in a warm place to let it rise another hour or two. When it’s done, it should be almost doubled in size.
A half hour before your dough has risen, put the dutch oven in the non-dutch oven and turn it to 475 degrees. After a half hour, open the oven, take the lid off and quickly put the dough into it. Be careful not to touch the sides while you do this. Ouch. Put the lid back on, close the oven and let it bake for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, take the lid off and keep baking it until it turns a dark golden brown, 15 to 30 minutes more. I was shocked when I took off the lid and that sticky ball of goop really had turned into a lovely little loaf of bread.
Use potholders to take the bread out and let it cool for an hour or so.
This bread is really delicious. Supposedly the dutch oven acts like a fancy bread oven, trapping the steam the bread produces and creating a bakery-like crust. It worked well. The crust is thin and crunchy. The inside is soft with just enough holes for the butter to soak into. It doesn’t have much of a distinct flavor on its own, so it’s really good with jam. Or cheese. Or pickles. Or dark chocolate.
Now you’re all ready to be self-sufficient, or at least to eat some good bread, when the Redwood Curtain closes around us. Of course, you’re always welcome to hang out with the Xanax clan. But you’ll have to bring your own moonshine.