Culinary Comforts of Home by Dana Williams

As the holidays wind down every year, there’s always a lot of talk about the long, loathsome, gray days ahead. I have to say that I’ve never shared this point of view. Frenzy – gone! Pressure – over! Over booked social activities – goodbye! For me, it’s always been the perfect time to cozy up in my small kitchen and cook and bake to my heart’s delight. And yes, I love both. 

Beef BurgundyThe creativity of cooking is so much fun. While I always follow a recipe as written the first time I make it, I’m never afraid to tweak it when I go back the second time. For instance, my favorite Beef Bourguignon is from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris” but years ago I realized we liked it better with baby portabellas vs button mushrooms and I always use twice as many as called for. Ditto with the beef – I use 3 1/2 lbs instead of the written 2 1/2 lbs. My family likes a really hefty stew! It’s such a satisfying dish to make and setting flame to the brandy soaked veggies nestled in my Le Creuset dutch oven never fails to give me a little thrill!

I’ve also fallen in love with making my own version of no knead bread. Simple, delicious and no heavy equipment needed – just a 4 or 5 qt lidded pot that can withstand high baking temps. I have a couple different Le Creuset pieces for this but traditional cast iron is perfect as well! Crusty, chewy with a hint of pepper that makes it just a little bit different from a traditional loaf – you have to try it! 

No Knead Bread

4 cups bread flour
2 1/2 cups room temperature water
1/2 tsp yeast
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp coarsely ground pepper

Need 4 or 5 quart lidded pot that can withstand high baking temperatures (such as cast iron).

Combine dry ingredients.  Add water a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon.  Cover, and let sit 18 – 24 hours. Put pot into a preheated 450 degree oven, leave for 30 minutes. While pot is heating, turn dough out onto a floured surface and with floured hands, form into a free form ball. Let rest under a towel. When the heated pot is ready, remove from oven and lift dough into it. Bake for 30 minutes with lid on, remove lid and bake for another 20 minutes. Turn out immediately and let cool before slicing.

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