The New No Knead Page

by A.J. Coltrane

Try saying that three times fast.

By request, a new page for the No Knead Bread. Scroll up, it’s the tab on the right-hand end.

Pot Luck Focaccia

by A.J. Coltrane

Another variation on a high hydration focaccia, using this one as a jumping off point.

The goal this time was to make a focaccia that could stand on its own at a potluck. As compared to the linked (non-assertive) bread, this one features more salt, more oil, and the addition of rosemary to the top.

All I had in the house was AP flour. I would have preferred Bread Flour for this one, but I wasn’t going to make a trip to the store for it.

The recipe:

Ingredient Measure Baker’s %
AP Flour 500 g
Water 500 g 100
Salt 12 g 2.5
EV Olive Oil 30 g 6
Instant Yeast 1.5 tsp


1.  Combine all ingredients in a mixer and combine on low speed for 10 minutes. Lightly oil a parchment lined sheet tray.

2.  Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, then pour it into the sheet tray, gently coaxing the dough towards the edges of the pan. Cover and let rest 2 hours. Chop rosemary.

3.  Preheat oven to 425F.

4.  When the oven is hot, drizzle a small amount of oil on the dough. Sprinkle chopped rosemary on top.

5.  Bake for 15 minutes, turn the tray 180 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes.

If it’s a two-hour dough I’m always suspicious of the ability of the finished product to be interesting on it’s own. That’s not enough time for good stuff to happen, chemically speaking. On this variation I turned to the “volume knobs” of oil and salt — the oil was increased from 4% to 6%, and the salt was increased from 2% (the “standard”), up to 2.5% of the weight of the flour. The small amount of additional salt helps the bread stand up to other big flavors.

140828 focaccia

Something I ran into with both of these high-hydration doughs was that the raw doughs couldn’t support the weight of a drizzle of oil. This may be because the house was 80F+ on both attempts. Each time the top of the dough was saturated with tiny delicate bubbles. Spreading the oil around on the surfaces was out of the question. I wound up drizzling a thin stream of oil, which looks like little canals or “breaks” on the finished focaccia.

A close up:

140828 focaccia close up

(Rushed 5 a.m. photography. Not terrible, considering.)

What I think I learned:

1.   100% hydration doughs might not be the best idea when the house is over 80 degrees. Something like 75-80% hydration would have been “safer” way to go.

2.   The dough was basically a batter. The finished bread likely would have benefited from a pan smaller than a sheet tray. As it was, the edges were pretty thin, which could have led to uneven baking.

3.   When I initially pulled the bread out of the oven it was fairly pasty looking. At the risk of drying out the bread, I popped it back in for 4 minutes — that’s what gave it a better color.

Fortunately all of that worked out, though I had my doubts.

I think it’s time to steer back towards “sane hydration” land for a while.

Oil Instead Of Butter – Sandwich Loaf

by A.J. Coltrane

Many sandwich bread recipes call for butter, milk, and/or buttermilk. In theory this one is a little bit healthier, it uses extra virgin olive oil as the fat.

The formula:

Ingredient Measure Baker’s %
AP Flour 500g
Water 325g 65
Salt 10g 2
Olive Oil 20g 4
Instant Yeast 1.5 tsp

It’s basically the same formula as this recent focaccia. The only real difference is that it uses 65% hydration rather than 75%.

The mixture was kneaded for 8 minutes. A small amount of oil was added to coat the mixing bowl, then the dough was allowed to rest for two hours. From there it’s mostly the No Knead Bread recipe — place a 5 quart dutch oven into the real oven and preheat to 425F (No Knead bread is cooked at 450F). Turn the dough out into the dutch oven. Bake, covered for 20 minutes, uncover and cook for another 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

140824 sandwich bread

Crusty but not too crusty. Chewy but not too chewy. It retains the sandwich ingredients without leaking or falling to pieces. A perfectly fine sandwich bread.

Container Garden Update — August 24, 2014

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.

August 25, 2013 here for comparison.

Yesterday was a big “haircut day” for the tomatoes. As it turns out, at least one “haircut day” from last year was on August 25th. This year’s decision to give them a haircut was made without looking at last year’s notes. It’s interesting to me how closely the timing worked out.

It seems to me that the great majority of the mold on the tomato plants occurs on the “side shoots” — the leaf-only branches that are at a 90 degree angle to the main stem. The “sucker” branches (that come out of the side shoot/main stem intersection, and grow additional fruit), and the main stems are almost entirely mold free. This is true regardless of the location “side shoot”. The mold is both on exterior, well ventilated side shoots and on leaves that are buried in the interior of the leaf canopy. It’s like the plant figures that if it’s not a fruit producing node then it’s now time to shut down those natural defenses and spend that energy somewhere else.

Lots of pictures this week, mostly of denuded tomato plants.. starting with Wednesdays harvest:


Saturday. That’s a big tomatillo in the bottom right corner:

Continue reading Container Garden Update — August 24, 2014

Another Simple (3 Hour) Focaccia

by A.J. Coltrane

Served at this tomato tasting. Most recent Rosemary Focaccia here.

I’ve gradually been dialing back the amount of oil that I’ve been putting into focaccias…

Background:  When I started making focaccia I always measured the oil by volume. At some point I decided that seemed like a silly way to do it — if I already had the scale out, why dirty another measuring cup? My starting point for “oil by weight” was 10%+, as well as a pretty generous dose on top. The link above uses 8% oil. The focaccia below used only 4% with a very, very light drizzle of oil on top.

To go even further off track for a moment — I’m intending to do a post about how different bread types are related to each other based upon their contents. The thing is, I’m not entirely sure anymore what exactly I’m “making”. I have a starting idea, but that’s about it. Though I guess it really doesn’t matter so long as it tastes good.

The bread below uses 100% hydration — the weight of the water is equal to the weight of the flour. That’s among the highest hydration doughs that I’ve posted. This Berenbaum recipe used 113% hydration, but that’s (I think) the highest hydration dough I’ve done (and it uses 9% oil).

I was hoping to achieve a relatively spongy texture — lots and lots of little, fairly uniform holes. The ingredients:

Ingredient Measure Baker’s %
Bread Flour 520 g
Water 520 g 100
Salt 11 g 2
Olive Oil 20 g 4
Instant Yeast 1.5 tsp


1.  Combine all ingredients in a mixer and combine on low speed for 12 minutes. Lightly oil a parchment lined sheet tray.

2.  Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, then pour it into the sheet tray, gently coaxing the dough towards the edges of the pan. Cover and let rest 1.5 hours.

3.  Preheat oven to 425F.

4.  When the oven is hot, drizzle a small amount of oil on top of the dough.

5.  Bake for 15 minutes, turn the tray 180 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes.

That’s it. It’s seriously simple. The only “trick” is make sure that all of the flour incorporates into the dough — it will tend to want to stay on the sides of the mixing bowl. I used a spatula to scrape down the sides a couple of times during the mixing, then aggressively combined the remaining raw flour after removing the bowl from the mixer.140818 focaccia

Postmortem:  I feel like this one came out about as well as it could have for a 3-hour dough. Using bread flour rather than AP flour was (I believe) the right choice. Adding toppings (salt, herbs, or onion) might have made it more interesting, but the object was to complement the tomato tasting, and in that respect it was basically what I had targeted.

Multiple thumbs up.

Container Garden Update — August 19, 2014

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.

Silly August 18, 2013 post here. (Includes two cat pics and must have been written on very little sleep.)

The plants continue to look more and more haggard as the fruit production ramps up. There’s now mold on the zucchini leaves, some of the tomato plants, and the Brussels Sprouts (of all things). SeattleAuthor shared the hypothesis that the mold may be partly due to the humidity we’ve been seeing. That’s possible — there’s a small holly tree start across the yard that is covered in mold too.

But the production is going gangbusters:

Monday the 11th:

140811 harvest

Thursday the 14th:

Continue reading Container Garden Update — August 19, 2014

Pesto Naan Gone Wrong

by A.J. Coltrane

Cedar’s on Brooklyn has an awesome Pesto Naan. Really, everything there is tasty and very reasonably priced. Try anything from the tandoori oven, but don’t go when it’s dinnertime. To quote Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

I thought I’d try to replicate their Pesto Naan, only without the tandoori oven. I selected the Joy of Cooking recipe as a jumping off point and came up with this:

Ingredient Weight Volume Baker’s %
Bread Flour 400g ~3 cups 100
Greek Yogurt 264g ~1-1/3 cups 66
Kosher Salt 8g 2
Instant Yeast 1 tsp
Additional Water as needed

The Joy recipe calls for adding 1-2 tablespoons of water as necessary to make the dough come together. I added 2-3 tablespoons.

I kneaded the dough on low speed for 8 minutes, then set it aside to rest for 1-1/2 hours. While the dough was resting I made a simple pesto. So far so good. Time to preheat the oven to 450F.

I divided the dough into two pieces and rolled each piece out thinly. I then spread the pesto over one round, topped it with the other round and sealed the package.

It sealed ok, but then I decided *that* wasn’t good enough. I tried rolling out the package at little more and managed to irreparably split the seam. Bad idea #1.

At that point I said “Ok screw it. Let’s put it in the oven and see what happens.”

Unfortunately I selected the perforated pizza pan that I like so much. Unfortunately as the pesto heated up it exuded a bunch of oil. Unfortunately that oil leaked out the sides of the naan and caught fire on the bottom of the oven.

“That’s a lot of smoke.”

“Where’s the fire extinguisher?!”

It wasn’t a *big* fire, but it was big enough to be a concern. I grabbed the nearest towel and yanked the mostly cooked dough out of the oven. No sense feeding more fuel into the fire. Plus, I’d put some energy into the naan! I was torn between dosing the fire extinguisher into the oven or just riding it out. I couldn’t figure out how to work the fire extinguisher, which was just as well. The fire burned itself out in 3 or 4 minutes.

“Well heck, the fire is out. I’ll leave the oven turned off and put the naan back into the oven to finish cooking — on a sheet tray this time.”

140725 pesto naan

The bottom was a little too dark, but overall it was a winner.

As an added bonus I’d managed to throw a piece of orange plastic into the oven as part of the rush to yank out the naan during the fire. Chiseling melted plastic out of the oven is so much fun!

Note to self:  No perforated pans next time.

DeAndre Yedlin Is Fast

by A.J. Coltrane

Here’s a link to a post about Andre Yedlin and what it says about the future of US soccer. [ESPN/Grantland]

What got my attention was this paragraph:

Today, it’s easy to look at Yedlin — 5-foot-8 and thick-chested, and able to outrun the best soccer players in the world — and imagine him on an NFL roster. He could be Darren Sproles, leaving linebackers grasping at air, or he could be Tyrann Mathieu, another Mohawked terror with a knack for separating offensive players from the ball. In college, Yedlin was clocked at about 4.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash. And, says his college coach, Caleb Porter, “It’s about a lot more than top-end speed. It’s his burst, his ability to go from a jog to a sprint before you even realize what has just happened.” His athleticism, Porter says, “is truly world-class.”

(Emphasis mine.)

If he really ran a 4.2 it’d make him about as fast as anyone in the NFL. That’s fringe Olympic sprinter speed. The top combine times since 2009:

Time Name Height Weight Year
4.24 Rondel Melendez 5 ft 9 in (175 cm) 192 lb (87 kg) 1999
4.24 Chris Johnson 5 ft 11 in (180 cm) 192 lb (87 kg) 2008
4.25 Tavon Austin 5 ft 8 in (173 cm) 178 lb (81 kg) 2013
4.26 Jerome Mathis 5 ft 11 in (180 cm) 184 lb (83 kg) 2005
4.26 Dri Archer 5 ft 8 in (173 cm) 173 lb (78 kg) 2014
4.27 Stanford Routt 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) 193 lb (88 kg) 2005
4.27 Marquise Goodwin 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) 181 lb (82 kg) 2013
4.28 Champ Bailey 6 ft 0 in (183 cm) 192 lb (87 kg) 1999
4.28 Jacoby Ford 5 ft 9 in (175 cm) 190 lb (86 kg) 2010
4.28 DeMarcus Van Dyke 6 ft 1 in (185 cm) 187 lb (85 kg) 2011
4.29 Fabian Washington 5 ft 11 in (180 cm) 188 lb (85 kg) 2005
4.29 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) 184 lb (83 kg) 2008
4.29 Josh Robinson 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) 199 lb (90 kg) 2012
4.3 Darrent Williams 5 ft 9 in (175 cm) 176 lb (80 kg) 2005
4.3 Tye Hill 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) 185 lb (84 kg) 2006
4.3 Yamon Figurs 5 ft 11 in (180 cm) 174 lb (79 kg) 2007
4.3 Darrius Heyward-Bey[12] 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) 210 lb (95 kg) 2009

Not many of those guys are very tall, though on average they outweigh Yedlin by around 20 or 30 pounds.

The other line I thought was interesting was this one:

Some have suggested that Yedlin move full time to midfield. But his skill set, built on quickness and speed more than creativity and technique, would have a defined ceiling if he moved farther upfield. “Could he be a winger? Yeah, sure,” Porter says. “But when you look at the top wingers, he’s never going to be more technical and more clever off the dribble and in his combination and movement than those guys are. He just doesn’t have that. But at right back? With his athleticism, bombing forward, going box to box? Right now, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, he obviously already looks like the right back of the future for our national team. Beyond that, he can be a Champions League right back. He can be that good.” The difference, says Porter: At age 21, it may already be too late to master the finer points of midfield technique. But defending? “Yeah,” Porter says, “that can definitely be taught.”

Is that the next wave of US Soccer? Kids who either started too old or are just generally underskilled but who have terrific athleticism. In that context they’re still useable as marauding defenders, striking up the sidelines and running past the opposing defenders.

Works for me.


The Yedlin to Tottenham deal is finally official. (As of 6 hours ago.) The details, and a picture of Yedlin holding a Tottenham jersey are at That makes sense, he was held out of Sunday’s game and it was obvious why.

Container Garden Update — August 10, 2014

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here. August 11, 2013 post here.

The cucumber box fell over on Friday. The Ultomato framework is overwhelmed — parts of it came off during the tumble. I harvested five pounds cucumbers, put the framework back together as much as possible, then propped the box up against a beam that holds up the deck:

140810 cucumber

Continue reading Container Garden Update — August 10, 2014

How to Turn a Walk Into 2 Outs

By Blaidd Drwg

With your every day 2-1-6-1-5 double play. The Giants managed to pick off 2 runners on the same play, which happened to be a walk. This is why you need to pay attention the game when you are running the bases kids.

Video Here