Recipe Project #148-160: no-knead breads

Longtime readers will remember my fascination with bread, my fear of yeast, and my many failures. I was writing about them back in 2005, here and here and here and here. After that string of misadventures, I pretty much gave up on bread for another 7 years. Compatriot G. started making bread back during the No-Knead Bread Fascination of 2006 or so, when Lahey’s famous New York Times recipe came out and set all the food blogs on fire with bloggers making bread in their dutch ovens. I studiously ignored all this and happily ate all the bread that G. sent my way while we wrote our dissertations.

Then about a year ago, Mr. Husband ordered this marvel:

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

It came out in 2007, but was still new to me. I was curious enough to start fiddling around with it, and it changed everything. It bolstered my confidence, taught me some things about yeast, and made bread more feasible from a time management standpoint. And as I worked my way through a handful of the recipes, I got brave enough to dip into our other bread books that had been languishing on the shelves as we moved to three different residences. After starting out with no-knead bread in May, I was making full-on French bread for guests in early July. I’ve been baking bread of one sort or another every week since, and I can’t remember the last time we paid $4 for a loaf of something from Wegman’s.

Here’s what I’ve baked so far (and I’m still not nearly done with this book):

  1. Boule
  2. European Peasant Bread
  3. Olive Bread
  4. Deli-Style Rye
  5. Bran-Enriched White Bread (Google-fu is failing me on this one)
  6. Light Whole Wheat Bread
  7. 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
  8. Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread Inspired by Chris Kimball
  9. Oatmeal Bread
  10. Challah
  11. Brioche
  12. Sunflower Seed Breakfast Loaf
  13. Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls

The Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls are so fabulous that I made 60 of them as gifts for our department staff at Christmas. It began with a rise in front of the fireplace since there wasn’t enough room in the fridge for a slow rise there:

Operation: Christmas Sticky Buns

And things eventually ended up here:

Operation: Christmas Sticky Buns

Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls
1 1/2 pounds of any of these refrigerated pre-mixed doughs: Challah (page 180), Brioche (page 189), or Boule (page 26)

Caramel Topping:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
30 pecan halves

The Filling:
4 tablespoons salted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans
Pinch of ground black pepper

On baking day, cream together the butter, salt, and brown sugar. Spread evenly over the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan. Scatter the pecans over the butter-sugar mixture and set aside.

Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 pound (cantaloupe-sized) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a 1/8-inch thick rectangle. As you roll out the dough, use enough flour to prevent it from sticking to the work surface but not so much as to make the dough dry.

Cream together the butter, sugar, and spices. Spread evenly over the rolled-out dough and sprinkle with the chopped nuts. Starting with the long side, roll the dough into a log. If the dough is too soft to cut, let it chill for 20 minutes to firm up.

With a very sharp serrated knife, cut the log into 8 equal pieces and arrange over the pecans in the pan, with the “swirled” edge facing upward. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest and rise 1 hour (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough.)

Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350F. If you’re not using a stone in the oven, 5 minutes is adequate.

Bake about 40 minutes, or until golden brown and well set in center. While still hot, run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the caramel rolls, and invert immediately into a serving dish. If you let them set too long they will stick to the pan and be difficult to turn out.

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