12 Feb 2010

Snowpocalyptic Bread Challenge Underway

Laura Marks no-knead bread has promising beginnings. Photo by Laura Marks

A long trudge through the blizzard will have taught anyone that bread is almost one of the first things to go during a winter storm, or rumors of a storm.

Someone is here to show you, why bother?  You can get far much better  in the warmth, comfort and safety of our own home, according to Sam Fromartz, author of Organic, Inc., and writer of the organic and sustainable food blog at ChewsWise.com.

Sam announced on the Capitol Hill parents listserv MOTH a quite novel way to get people baking and breaking bread together: the “Snowpocalypse Bread Baking Challenge” on his blog. It is open to anyone snowed in, from Yonkers to Virginia and points in between, and closes Tuesday.

“With schools closed, the house a mess, and snow piling up, what better time than now to bake bread,” wrote the Hill dad and home baker.  “I’ve been baking up a storm — and now it’s time for you to start too.” The recipe and rules of engagement are on his website. No ringers, though!

The contest will be judged by photographic entries, due to the Internet logistics of the contest, but the reward for the winner is more palpable:  The prize: Jim Lahey’s recently published book, My Bread (donated by his publisher). As of mid-day Thursday, there were abut a dozen entires, with more in the works (or cupboard.)

The no-knead  loaf is “about as much work a scrambling eggs,” Sam told me.  “The gluten develops on its own, whereas stiffer dough needs more kneading.” The hard part, he said, is getting the right pot. He recommends a Le Creuset dutch oven but has done it in stainless steel pasta pot, as well.

One tip he had if your kitchen is cold, is to put the dough on a high cupboard shelf with a closed door. He did that, and raised the temperature of the bread to 65 degrees due to yeast activity from a room temperature of 57 degrees.

Laura Marks, whose bread-making progress is pictured here, got right to work during blizzard conditions Wednesday, and reported the finished project was gone within an hour from its exit from the oven.The enterprising mom of two also made snow ice cream, so she has spent a happy few days ensconced in the kitchen with her young children. Well, sort of, right, Laura? At least a tasty few days…

Another woman I know put the call out on MOTH for some yeast during the storm, got six offers, and was duly rewarded with some from a neighbor. “People are being helpful amid all this snow,” she said. Others were adapting the recipe or just getting inspired into baking, listserv comments showed.

The finished product is gorgeous and ready to eat as the Snowpocwalypse winds howl outside. . Photo (and bread) by Laura Marks.

The bread is really good with just butter or a little olive oil and rubbed with a little garlic, according to Sam. “What  I do when the bread gets a little stale–I toss it with olive oil and put it in the oven–my daughter [age 6] goes crazy for it.”

The winner will be announced shortly after the contest ends Tuesday. The winner’s bread, though, will be long gone, so bake your own! What’s in your cupboard?

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