Hooked on No-Knead
This past year I have discovered the joys of “fermentation” in the guise of yogurt-making and bread-baking. At the start of the year, I dusted off a yogurt maker that had been long forgotten at the back of the cupboard, and have been keeping all of us (including the dogs, who love it) supplied with this probiotic-loaded, highly nutritious food, you can find the directions to make your own here. I put a spoonful of it to top off the dogs’ meals, or let them lick it right off the spoon.
And, despite living in one of the country’s artisan-bakery hubs, it’s now been over a year since I’ve bought bread. And I must admit I always was a die-heart bread fanatic. So when I heard about the ease of baking your own bread that came via Jim Lahey from the Sullivan Street Bakery (NYC) and his able acolyte, Mark Bittman of the New York Times, I was intrigued.
With my very first loaf turning out great, I was hooked and have been busy baking our own whole wheat, country-style bread using his “no-knead” method, a trend (ahem) rising in kitchens everywhere.
For as long as I can recall, when it came to bread making, the need to knead was my downfall, so the idea of “no-knead” was an enticing come-on. I couldn’t be more thankful for what this simple recipe has given us. Not only does it fill the house with the nothing-better-than aroma of freshly baked bread, it also provides the crunchy delight of olive-oil-laced crouton snacks for our pups and abundant, tasty breadcrumbs for their turkey meatloaf.
Lahey’s basic white bread recipe, which started this craze, can be found here. But whole wheat bread is not only better for you, but one that I especially am fond of, so I was pleased to see that he also has a great cookbook, aptly titled, My Bread, that goes into detail about “pane integrale” whole wheat, rye and many other varieties. This recipe is so simple, not only is there no kneading, but you don’t have to “test’ the yeast, or punch down the rising loaf.
So I suggest that you view the video to learn about the basic technique, but recommend you try the whole wheat version first. The basic difference with the recipe for the white bread version (featured in the video) and the whole wheat (or rye) one is that instead of using 3 cups of bread flour, you use 2 cups of bread flour (be sure to use bread flour and not all-purpose) and 1 cup of whole wheat or rye. I’ve adapted the recipe slightly, so I combine 3 different flours—about 2/3 c of whole wheat, a couple of tablespoons of rye and topping it off with spelt flour (all 3 different types together equal one cup). I also add another tablespoon or so of water, to the 1 1/3 cups of water.
Whole Wheat bread recipe:
2 c bread flour
1 c whole wheat (or a mix of whole wheat, spelt, rye) flour
1 ¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp instant or active dry yeast
1 ⅓ c (plus a scant tbsp.) cool water
Put all dry ingredients into a medium sized mixing bowl, and using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix all the dry ingredients, making sure that the flours are well integrated. Then pour all the water into the bowl, not in one place but over the top of the flours to cover as much as you can. Then mix that it all with a spoon or your hands. That should take only 30 seconds or a minute or so. Cover the bowl with plastic and let rise for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature. It should double in size. (The warmer the room the less rising time, but 12 hours is always the minimum amount of time for the bread to ferment slowly—an important aspect of this recipe.)
After the dough has gone through that first rise, generously flour a surface (like a cutting board or counter top, use white flour for this) and your hands, and remove all the dough from the bowl. It might stick to the bowl, but be sure you get it all out in one piece. You can also use a plastic bowl scraper, but you want to remove all the dough in one piece. With your well-floured hands (to keep them from sticking to the dough), shape the dough by folding and refolding (a few times) and then forming it into a round form (it will be around 6 inches in diameter in a nice round ball form). Gently move the dough unto a well-floured tea towel (do NOT use terry cloth, and you can use cornmeal, or bran instead of flour), cover with either another tea towel or the edges of the towel. Let the dough rest for 1 to 2 hours in a draft free spot. The dough is ready for baking when, after a gentle poke with your finger, it leaves a slight impression. It if doesn’t, wait another 15 minutes and test it again.
Here’s the important part of what makes the magic of this simple baking method work—Lahey’s “oven within an oven” discovery. You will be baking the bread in either a heavy covered 4 ½ quart to 5 ½ quart pot, like an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, or a 5-quart Lodge cast-iron pot. I like the clay ware La Cloche cooking bell best because I find it easier to place the dough loaf onto it, instead of “flinging” the loaf into a higher sided pot. It is very important that whatever pot you use, that pot stays covered during the preheating and the first part of the baking process. This is the "oven within the oven" trick created by Lahey and, as he describes it, “It accomplishes what classic domed brick ovens do: it completely seals in the baking process so the steam escaping from the bread can do its work to ensure a good crust and a most crumb.”
Half way through this second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. To accommodate a large pot or a La Cloche you will probably need to remove all the racks from the over, except for one on the lower third portion that you’ll be using. I start the preheating ½ hour after the loaf was shaped, so even if it does take 2 hours for the dough to be ready, at least the oven and the pot are nice and hot.
When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven, making sure not to place the pot on a cool surface (especially if using a La Cloche), remove the cover, then working quickly, gently flip the loaf over into the pot, so the “bottom” of the dough becomes the top of the loaf. You might have to flour your hands to do this, to avoid the dough sticking to your hands. Don't worry if the “bread,” at this point, looks flat and blob-like. Cover the pot, and again, working quickly, place it on the middle of the oven rack.
Bake for 30 mins., at 475 degrees, the first blast of heat causes the fermenting dough to become “bread” in what is called “over spring.” After 30 mins. remove the lid from the pot and bake the bread for another 10 to 20 minutes. At this point it will definitely look like a loaf of bread. The time depends on how hot your oven is, and how dark you like your crust. By this time your kitchen will be drenched in that lovely, fresh bread aroma, savor it as your loaf cooks.
Remove the loaf from the pot and cool on a rack—while it should be easy to remove it from the hot pot, you might need to use a spatula to gently pry it up from the bottom. I know it is irresistible, but do not cut into the loaf until it is fully cooled, it is still “finishing” the baking process even out of the oven. The bread is said to “sing” at this cooling period, but the “singing” is evidence of the last phase of cooking.
A couple of things to note about storing bread, never ever store it in plastic, it is best just to place the loaf, once you slice it, on the cut side down on an enamel plate. You can store it in a paper bag but do NOT seal it. Or you can use wax paper too.
Yeast: It is more affordable to buy it in bulk instead of in those little packets, so I’ve been buying the 16 oz instant yeast, “Saf Red instant” from King Arthur Flour—it is only $5.95 and that makes a lot of bread. This yeast is the one most recommended by bakers and it has never failed me.
I just bought my second one-pound purchase, the first one lasted almost a year. Make sure to store yeast in the refrigerator. I place a smaller amount into a little glass jar and then store the rest of the yeast in a larger container.
Bread flour: I use King Arthur’s but there are many other good ones—you must use bread flour, all-purpose does not have the protein content for bread.
Whole wheat flour: There are a few great brands, some of them from local millers. The hard red winter wheat flour (In California) from Community Grains is great, so too is the organic whole wheat high protein flour (made from Northern spring wheat) from Giusto’s Vita Grain. King Arthur Flour also has a good whole wheat flour but I urge you to see what your local milling companies have to offer. It really is quite the discovery to learn about how vibrant that sector has become.
Rye and Spelt flours: Arrowhead Mills, Bob’s Red Mill, Hodgson Mill also have good ones.
Even though “no-knead” was invented by Jim Lahey there are many others who have interpreted this method very successfully. I have also used the recipes from Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois’ Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day—I especially like their brioche. There are oh so many videos showing methods and recipes, including Breadtopia.com.
Just go to YouTube and search for “no knead bread,” you’ll be amazed at how many others have been baking bread, so hopefully this will inspire you to start baking your own. Send us photos when you do, would love to see your “loaves.”
Uses for leftover bread:
For croutons, I use whatever is left over as I bake the next loaf (I bake about 3 times a week), slice the bread into small cubes (or whatever size you prefer), place in a bowl and add olive oil mixing the oil well on all the cubes, then place on a cookie sheet and cook at around 350 for 15 to 30 mins.—the baking time depends on how crunchy you like them. I give them to the dogs for extra special treats, sometimes spreading a little homemade peanut butter on them. (I also just started to make peanut butter, another extremely simple thing to whip up.) For the bread crumbs, I heat up some day old (or older) bread, cut it into larger cubes, place in a blender or food processor, and pulse a few times until is the consistency you desire. Some people then bake the crumbs in the oven for a few minutes, but if you heat the bread first you don’t need to do that. You can freeze the bread crumbs if you aren’t going to use them soon.
If you don’t have a good bread knife you will soon be wanting to get one, I found that the Victorinox model 47547 works really great. You should be able to find one for less than $40 (considering that I was looking at knives arranging from $200 to $300, this great find, recommended by Chow, was a bargain).
Small, tasty and charming treats
In Hello, Cupcake, the authors start with basic cake mixes and frostings, and then the fun begins. Using easy-to-find candies, they show you how to make everything from insects to sunflowers. We, of course, were charmed by their “Pup Cakes,” which include 11 dog breeds; we selected the Chocolate Lab.
At the dog park, you know all the dogs but none of the owners’ names. Stir up a batch of cupcakes for the humans, and another for the dogs (try the “Mutt Cups”), and invite everyone to a dog party. You’ll make new friends and may snag a few doggie play-dates too.
For the Chocolate Lab, start with vanilla cupcakes baked in white paper liners. You’ll also need vanilla and dark chocolate frosting, as well as black food coloring. Multiply the ingredients by the number of cupcakes you plan to make.
IMPORTANT: THESE ARE FOR HUMANS ONLY. CHOCOLATE CAN BE LETHAL FOR DOGS.
Spread the top of the cupcake with a thin layer of dark chocolate frosting. Arrange the three mini-marshmallows in triangle on the lower third of the cupcake. Spread a thick layer of dark chocolate frosting over the marshmallows to cover.
Place the one-half piece of the circus peanut directly under the frosted marshmallows to make the tongue. Pipe lines of dark chocolate frosting around the tongue to cover slightly. With the black frosting (made by adding black food coloring to the dark chocolate frosting), pipe two curved lines to define the upper part of the mouth.
Press the jelly bean halves into the frosting to make the eyes, and add the whole jelly bean on its side for the nose. Pipe a small white highlight on each eye. Fold the top end of the taffy ears under and arrange on either side of the cupcake.
From Hello, Cupcake! Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Copyright © 2008 by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Whole Grains, Whole Fun
Dogs love the taste and aroma of their very own ginger cookies—better yet, use a “squirrel” cookie cutter for extra delight.
Makes 5 to 6 dozen cookies.
Roll out dough on floured surface to about ¼ inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut into desired shapes. Combine dough scraps and continue to roll out and cut into shapes until all dough has been used.
Place cookies on ungreased foil-lined baking sheets and bake in preheated 325º oven for 30 to 35 minutes.
From The Home Spa Book for Dogs by Jennifer Cermak, published by Quarry Books, 2005.
Breakfast Oats or Barley
Linda Eckhardt and Barbara Bradley with Judy Kern
Oats and barley are vital canine foods. They are good sources of iron and help cleanse the intestine of impurities. And as if that weren’t enough, this healthy, hearty breakfast food requires no cooking at all!
Makes 2 servings
Variation: you can also add finely chopped apple and stir in a dollop of plain yogurt before serving.
From The Dog Ate It: Cooking for Yourself and Your Four-Legged Friends by Linda Eckhardt and Barbara Bradley with Judy Kern, published by Gotham Books, 2006.
Holiday treats for the co-pilots
Just in time for holiday cookie making, a delightful new book by Janine Adams—You Bake ’Em Dog Biscuits Cookbook—is filled with tantalizing dog biscuit recipes. Whip up a batch of the Red and Green Christmas Cookies to share with all your doggy friends.
Preheat oven to 325° F
Rinse out the processor bowl. Return it to the base and add spinach. Process to chop the spinach. Add water while the blade is going and continue to process until the spinach is finely chopped. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and remaining 2 cups of the flour mixture. Process to form green dough.
On a lightly floured surface, roll red and green dough out, separately, into 1/4-inch-thick ovals. Try to make the ovals the same size and shape. Stack the green oval atop the red oval and roll again. Use cookie cutters to cut into Christmas shapes. Place on a baking sheet covered with greased or nonstick foil. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until just starting to brown on top. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Excerpted from You Bake ’Em Dog Biscuits by Janine Adams. Copyright © 2005 Running Press. All rights reserved.
A no-cook delight from the raw food maven
If you are blessed with the friendship of an animal companion, then you know about the special bond that can form between species. And as we share our lives and our love with them, we often share our food with them, too. Fresh, whole food is rich in the nutrients that we and our animal companions need to enjoy healthy lives. And raw food contains many more important nutrients than cooked food.
To get the most flavor and nutrients from your food, you’ll want to purchase it organically grown whenever possible. If you can’t buy organic, don’t let that deter you from eating fresh, whole foods. Choose fruits and veggies that are ripe and in season—and find fresh, locally grown produce whenever possible.
This is a delicious autumn soup. This winter squash is an excellent source of antioxidants, including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin—compounds that help fight the damaging effect of free radicals that can cause heart disease and cancer. Pumpkin also contains minerals such as potassium, copper, manganese, iron, magnesium and phosphorus; vitamins A, C, B and E; and enzymes. It’s often used as a digestive aid for nausea and diarrhea.
Choose a pumpkin that’s firm and heavy for its size. The skin should be free of blemishes, and some of its stem should remain on the squash; store in a dark place and refrigerate only after cutting its skin.
2 cups pumpkin, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups apple juice
1 cup carrot juice
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree. Pour into bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped pumpkin seeds. Makes about 4 cups.
From The Natural Nutrition No-Cook Book, by Kymythy R. Schultze (Hay House, 2005); used with permission of the publisher.
Note: We've omitted the garlic originally in this recipe.
Dog-Sized Baked Frittatas
Kale might be all the rage in the food world, but I love kale for its assertive flavor and nutritional profile. My dog, Cookie, will eat anything, but I feel good about feeding her kale because it is rich in beta-carotene, vitamins and anti-cancer properties. I usually just toss Cookie scraps of vegetables while I’m cooking, but it was a treat to share these mini frittatas with her for dinner. She loved them!
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Stir in the cheese and kale. Use a large spoon to transfer the mixture into each of the muffin cups, filling them about halfway. Bake for 18 minutes, or until the frittatas are lightly golden.
Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days. Use organic ingredients if possible. If you’d like smaller frittatas, try filling the muffins cups about a quarter of the way, and check for doneness after 8 minutes.
Dr. Deva K. Khalsa is a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine and author of the book Dr. Khalsa’s Natural Dog. An advocate of an integrative approach to natural health and healing for dogs, Dr. Khalsa suggests different ways to make dietary changes, from home-cooked meals to simply adding fresh vegetables to a good kibble. Below, she offers her formula for quick-and-easy, mix-and-match meals. Pick one item from Column A and one from Column B and just mix them together. These meals can be made fresh or prepared ahead of time and stored.
With Sweet Potato, Thyme, Oats and Bone Marrow
When there’s a chill in the air, Kit loves to dig into a warm, satisfying stew. Kit and her sisters can’t think of a more comforting variation than this recipe from The Culinary Canine by Kathryn Levy Feldman. With delicious marrow meat and caramelized veggies, it’s more than a tasty treat. Chef Nick LaCasse makes this extra nutritive with oats, a powerhouse source of protein, fiber, iron and B vitamins for your pup.
Put a slightly salted pot of water on high heat and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add green beans and simmer for about five minutes until very soft (or slightly less if your pooch likes a little more crunch). Set aside.
Place the sweet potato or yam pieces in the same water and simmer until tender but not mushy.
Place the pieces on a rack to airdry for about 10 minutes. When dried, put the pieces on a baking sheet, sprinkle with oats, drizzle with a little bit of honey, olive oil and add some thyme sprigs. Roast for about 25 minutes until the potato or yam starts to caramelize around the edges. Remove the thyme sprigs and set aside.
To serve, place a few spoonfuls of the oat/sweet potato (or yam) mixture on a plate and top with green beans and diced marrow. To garnish, pinch thyme leaves from the sprigs; they will be dried and fall from the stems easily.
This is enough for two to four meals, depending on the size and appetite of your dog.
An extra dose of delicious
A homemade vinaigrette on the salad, fresh herbs over a perfect al dente pasta — these are the flourishes that elevate our experience of eating. Everyone who has watched their dogs dig into a flavorful meal knows that they too are gastronomes to the core.
Like us, our dogs occasionally enjoy a little something different, and it’s easy to provide those quick hits of tastiness that make a meal just that much better. This is especially true for dogs with diminished interest in eating, whether due to illness, age or simple boredom. By adding toppings, you have a real opportunity not only to brighten your dog’s day with fragrant, fresh tastes, but also to slip in some supplemental nutrition in the process.
The good news is that you need go no further than your own pantry or the aisles of your local pet-supply or grocery store to discover simple, healthy ways to liven up an otherwise humdrum dinner for your dog.
Some of you may be saying, Wait! We know dogs have only about one-sixth the number of taste buds we do. Why bother dishing up anything out of the ordinary? Ah-ha. You’ve forgotten another widely known fact: When it comes to smell, dogs have 125 million sensory cells to our 5 to 10 million; they can smell each and every ingredient. Imagine that! And research has shown that they are able to distinguish at least four flavor profiles: sweet, sour and salty, which they tend to like, and bitter, which they do not. (Put down that saltshaker; according to Psychology Today, because dogs’ wild ancestors ate primarily meat, they did not develop salt receptors like those of humans, so what we consider perfectly seasoned is likely to be too salty for them.)
In this round-up, The Bark shares three different kinds of toppings: On the Go, or easy toppings that will bring a little surprise and variety to their meals. For the Home Cook, which includes ingredients and recipes that take a bit of preparation and Off the Shelf, commercial additions that often include nutritional enrichments. With a few key harmful foods excepted (see box on left), the only real limits to topping your dog’s food with delicious add-ons are her particular needs and tastes, and your imagination. Of course, each dog is different and it’s best to clear dietary changes with your veterinarian.
On the Go
Even easier? Drizzle some oil. Few supplements are as popular as salmon or fish oil for the canine mealtime — and for good reason. Fish oil is among the most beneficial additives to the canine diet: it is excellent for the treatment of canine allergies, but is now recommended for everything from arthritis to high cholesterol as well. One convention for calculating the amount of fish oil to include in your dog’s diet is to multiply your dog’s weight (in pounds) by 20. For a 60-pound dog, for example, the daily target dose is 1,200 mg. Another top product is flax seed oil, which is credited with healing, strengthening bones and maintaining dog’s energy. Flax seed and olive oil are both great sources of antioxidants, and key for maintaining canine cardiovascular health.
For the Home Cook
Postins selected these ingredients with a dog’s health in mind. Both cherries and fennel are packed with powerful antioxidants, and fava beans tonify, or maintain the healthy function of, the spleen, liver, kidneys and pancreas. But you don’t need a PhD in animal nutrition to boost your dog’s meals. One more home cooking approach: simply buy a medley of vegetables in bulk (see low-prep list) and oven-roast as many as your dog might eat in four to five days, then store in refrigerator and add at mealtime. A healthy “fast food” your dog will love. You can even just stock up on frozen vegetables — defrost and serve!
Making dog treats from leftovers
Table scraps: dogs love them, and their pleading eyes are difficult to deny. However, the consequences of this indulgence can range from minor and annoying to life-threatening and expensive. Some human foods — onions, chocolate, grapes and raisins in particular — contain enzymes that may produce gastrointestinal upsets, neurological problems, seizures and even death if fed in large quantities.
With care and common sense, though, you can turn leftovers into tasty and nutritious treats for your dogs.
How about a canine trail mix? Chop meat, potatoes, vegetables, even fruit, into 1/2” pieces. Spray lightly with cooking spray and place in a food dehydrator or 200° oven until dried for a nutritious treat to take along on those long post-meal hikes.
Holiday meals bring a bounty of leftover meat. Instead of feeding your dog the scraps, create a healthy frozen treat. Rinse off any seasoning and chop into small pieces. Fill an ice cube tray partway with water, drop an equal amount of chopped meat into each cube and freeze. Even dogs who don’t usually chew ice cubes will lick this refreshing treat.
Sweet potatoes contain vitamins A, C and E as well as protease inhibitors, which are thought to help prevent cancer in dogs. Remove the peel and slice them 1/4” to 1/2” thick. Place the slices in a food dehydrator or a 200° oven until they’re dry and chewy.
You can also make crunchy dog treats using leftovers. Start by rinsing the seasoning from any combination of leftover meat, rice, noodles or vegetables. Purée until smooth in a food processor. Add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and an egg. Use milk or water until the mixture is the consistency of heavy cream. Add a tablespoon of dried parsley and enough whole wheat, soy or rice flour to make a stiff dough. Roll the dough to about 1/4”, cut into shapes and bake at 350° for 20 to 30 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave in the oven overnight to crisp. The treats will keep for about a week in a cool, dry environment.
Healthy and nutritious dog treats are limited only by our imagination — be inspired to create your own recipes!
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