“Bread is the staff of life,” or so the saying goes. When I was studying lighting design at NYU, my teacher there, Arden Fingerhut (who became my dearest mentor and friend), would ask students to bake something to bring in to class. She explained that she did this because lighting design was the most abstract of the theatre design elements: costume designers had tangible sketches; set designers had physical models; but we lighting designers had only concepts and ideas and analogies. We didn’t actually produce our work until we were in the theatre, which we did only once or twice in our graduate course of study. So, she reasoned, bringing in some baked item, something we had actually made and could touch and taste, would make us feel that we had really made something of value when all we had to bring to class otherwise was a “concept paper” and some chalk marks on black paper (it was the early 1980s, long before computer visualizations of lighting were commonplace).
Fast-forward a few decades, and I am teaching graduate seminars in which I sometimes bake for the class or invite (but don’t require) students to do the same. I do this for a somewhat different reason than Arden articulated: to build community by sharing and for the hedonic effect that fresh baked anything produces. “Sharing” has been a blog topic here several times over the last few months as I think about alternative currencies for arts and culture.
There’s an easy bread recipe I use, and the bread has been a real favorite of my current group of graduate students, gobbled up swiftly and with more gusto than sweeter dessert-type baked items. I brought a loaf in to my graduate arts entrepreneurship seminar today, paired with butter that my dean, Steven J. Tepper, had churned and made into holiday gifts for his team. We did eventually get around to a discussion of alternate currencies – specifically crypto currency like bitcoin — and how its use was riskier than that of other currencies because, as I put it, “I can’t walk into the Safeway on the corner and buy a loaf of bread with bitcoin.” There was a wide range of opinion about the use of crypto-currencies and I look forward to learning more about the concept. Even though I can’t use bitcoin to buy bread in the local supermarket, if you want to gift me a bit-coin, I will ship you a loaf of my bread! Or if you prefer, you can bake it yourself – but please share it if you do.
LINDA’S NO-KNEAD BREAD RECIPE:
The most important component of this bread is TIME – it does not require skill. If I start the bread early Friday morning, It’s ready for a late breakfast on Saturday. If I start it Monday night, I can bake it Tuesday night and bring it in for my grad seminar on Wednesday.
You’ll need 24-30 hours.
You will also need a large mixing bowl and a cast iron Dutch oven
- 4 cups of WHITE WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR (King Arthur or Kroger brands are good)
- 2 cups of UNBLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR
- 1 TBS of salt
- ½ tsp of active dry yeast (not the fast rising kind)
- 3 cups of water
- Some cooking spray and a sprinkle of oatmeal or cornmeal for the bottom of the pan
Mix the flours, salt, and yeast together. Add the water and mix together well to form a wet dough. You don’t need to knead. Cover with plastic wrap and put aside in a cabinet or closet. (I put a cutting board on top to keep the plastic wrap on.) Let it sit undisturbed for 20-24 hours.
After this time has passed, punch down and knead a few times – not much is necessary, but if you can actually see some raw flour in the mix, make sure it gets incorporated. Let it sit (covered) for another 2-4 hours.
Put the Dutch oven in the regular oven and preheat both to 450 degrees.
Spray some cooking spray in the pan, sprinkle some oatmeal or cornmeal on the bottom (don’t cover the whole bottom – this is so the dough lifts up and gets some air circulating under it), pour in the dough (it will be wet and gloppy) and bake it COVERED for 30 minutes; remove the cover and bake an additional 18-20 minutes. It should pop right out; cool on a rack. It should look something like this: