Whew. Things are absolutely crazy around here. I mean crazy busy. INSANE. I feel like I have no time to sit down, at all. I barely have time to figure out what to make for dinner, or to come up with interesting things to post for you guys. It’s as if I literally have no time for anything at all, but somehow I’m managing to maintain my blog; I guess that shows where my priorities are. For example, I had this bread slathered with butter for dinner the night after I made it because I hadn’t defrosted anything and was way too tired to make anything by the time I got around to even thinking about it. Never before now has that above sign been more appropriate. Dinner-making has gone from an every night thing to a few nights a week thing, and there’s been a lot of take-out. I’m really that busy & preoccupied.
But I had this recipe bookmarked for years now, just waiting for the right time (and the right equipment) to make it. It’s a no-knead bread from Sullivan Street Bakery. Very easy, extremely delicious, and of course it’s all to show off my new LE CREUSET. Yes, that’s right. I said it.
Get ready, this is going to be long-winded.
See, there’s a story behind this. A few months back, right after New Year’s, after having had an exceptionally & spectacularly shitty week I made an executive decision:
I was getting myself a Le Creuset French oven.
To the uninitiated, this may not seem like such a big deal, or such a crazy decision. But for ONE single kitchen item that costs $300.00+, I assure you it is. So after crunching some numbers and assuring myself I was worth it & I deserved such a thing, I made the decision that I would finally get one. Like Lola, my KitchenAid stand mixer, it’s an investment piece. Not only does it improve my kitchen-witchery with all it’s benefits, but it’ll last forever. As in it’s entirely possible that generations from now my Le Creuset will be gracing the kitchen counter of one of my great-grandchildren. Yeah. It’s that serious. Plus it just looks beautiful.
Le Creuset was founded in the French town of Fresnoy-le-Grand, Aisne, Picardy, a strategic location at the crossroads of transportation routes for iron, coke and sand. Armand Desaegher (a casting specialist) and Octave Aubecq (an enameling specialist) opened their foundry in 1925. That same year, the first cocotte (or French Oven) was produced, laying the foundation for what is now an extensive range of cookware and kitchen utensils.
The Le Creuset signature color, Flame (orange) was born in this first piece. With their new ability to pigment the enamel glaze, Desaegher and Aubecq modeled their first color after the intense orange hue of molten cast iron inside a cauldron (“creuset” in French).
During World War II, Le Creuset began to focus on continually improving their cast iron. In 1939, Le Creuset launched the patented Doufeu, an oven containing the world’s first patented basting spikes that allow condensation to drip back into the food during cooking. In 1957, Le Creuset purchased a competitor, Les Hauts Fourneaux de Cousances, and began producing items such as a grill model and a fondue set.
In 1995 Le Creuset began exploring new product categories: stainless steel, stoneware, silicone, enamel on steel, textiles and forged hard-anodized aluminum.
The current Le Creuset logo was introduced in 1970 and was designed to be a symbolic representation of metal casting and molding. The company was purchased by current owner Paul Van Zuydam in 1987.
To manufacture their cast iron cookware, the Le Creuset foundry uses standard sand casting methods. After hand finishing, items are sprayed with at least two coats of enamel. The enamel becomes resistant to damage during normal use. Currently, all Le Creuset cast iron cookware is still manufactured in the company’s foundry in Fresnoy-le-Grand, where workers employ a 12 step finishing process implemented by 15 different pairs of hands to ensure that there are no flaws or imperfections in the final product.
I’ve wanted one for years, but I had a few problems. One, I kept spending the money on other things. And two, I couldn’t decide what color I wanted. In typical me fashion, I was drawn to black… but they didn’t have it anymore (they do in the U.K., however, and more than one kind of black, no less). They have a ton of colors- but I’m not a colorful girl. I like pink, yeah, but more often I’m drawn to black, gray, etc. My kitchen isn’t one that has Fiestaware or multicolored gadgets, & so a bright yellow, bright blue or bright green French oven just isn’t me. I’m not a Caribbean girl, or a Cherry girl, or a Soleil girl. I’m just not. Those colors are beautiful. But not ME. They also have white, and a color called Dune, which is a creamy off-white color. I wasn’t crazy about it, though. I mean- it’s a lovely color, but it didn’t have the WOW factor I was going for. But despite that, I was actually going to go with one of the two just because they were neutral and went with my kitchen, etc. And they also matched the set of mini cocottes I have. Truth be told? I really wanted pink; but Le Creuset doesn’t make pink, and the ones that they do make are so rare you can’t get your grubby little hands on them anywhere. Unless it’s this adorable little one. Or unless – and here’s the caveat- just like with the black color that’s long been discontinued in the U.S., you’ve gotta live in the U.K. to get it. And if you do, and you want to make me very, very happy… SEND ME A PINK LE CREUSET! Something. ANYTHING.
Kidding. Sorta. *cough* Anyway, then a few years back they introduced two new colors: Lilac (which I think is gone now) & Cassis. And immediately, I fell head over heels for the Cassis.
Named for the sweet black currant, Le Creuset’s CASSIS incorporates the nature-inspired shades found in aubergine and wild berries. Elegantly understated, CASSIS displays a warmth that complements soft-hued neutrals, and is one of today’s most sought-after colors.
Cassis is the French word for black currant which is a plant that produces dark purple berries, while purple has been a color associated with weath, luxury, and status throughout history.
If I have to get a color, and I can’t have pink? Well then I’m gonna get one that’s not too bright, but one that’s really beautiful and dark. One that looks like it could be almost black, but it isn’t. And so, I decided screw it. Screw matching shit. I love this color. And so yeah, I said I’d get the Cassis, when the time came for me to get one.
And that time was now.
So I went & I bought one. And the minute it arrived I sat on the floor, opened it, and just looked at it. I did the same thing when I first got my stand mixer, you know her as Lola. Sometimes, you just have to admire something before you use it. The color in the sunlight is a royal purple, like you see above. In regular light, it’s a deep, dark aubergine-type purple with a gradient. It’s beautiful.
And then, of course, once you’re done looking at it… you have to use it.
And what was I to make? How could I “break the seal” on this? What should the very first recipe I make be? I decided to go with something brainless. I originally tossed around all kinds of ideas; bœuf bourguignon, coq au vin, all those interesting French dishes, plus paella, stews and other assorted all-day meals. But I thought maybe I’d work up to those. Let’s just start with a super easy bread. Note: you need a Le Creuset French oven or some other 6-8 quart pot with lid to make this bread. Pyrex or a ceramic something or other with a lid will work too, although if you want a cast iron oven and don’t want to spend a lot, you can get Dutch ovens for a pretty decent price. Of course, I’m partial to my new love: Le Creuset.
Anyway, I know I just posted a bread last week. But give me a break, here. I know you’ll love this one. It’s very simple and it’ll blow you away!
SULLIVAN STREET BAKERY NO-KNEAD BREAD (from Jim Leahy, owner)
- 3 cups flour
- 11/2 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- 11/4 teaspoon salt
- olive oil (for coating)
- extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal (for dusting)
- Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add water and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lightly coat the inside of a second medium bowl (NOT aluminum or other reactive metal- only a glass or stainless steel bowl) with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65-72°F).
- Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface. Next, shape the dough into ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size. Preheat oven to 450-500°F.
- Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes Then remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.
Stunning! I think this was definitely the easiest bread ever. Seriously. Some breads require either a lot of steps & a starter, like the Levain, or they require a shit load of kneading, like the French bread I made way back when. This one has neither. Don’t get me wrong, the Levain is well worth the trouble, so is the French bread. But there are times you really don’t want to do all of that. I would assume, also, that you can use any flour you like; whole wheat, unbleached, etc. as well as top it with anything you like… seeds, oats, oat bran, etc. You could probably alter it to suit you with any kind of flavoring or herbs, too.
It would be fantastic in a grilled cheese sandwich, or for bruschetta (maybe when it gets hard). And it would also be great just toasted for breakfast, or with fresh jam.
I don’t know about using something like bran flour or coconut flour in it. I’d love for someone to try it & let me know, though! Pola, where are you?
I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot more of my new acquisition around here, since it’s good for everything from baking to making jam to roasting chicken & braising meat. This is just the beginning! If anyone has a great French oven recipe, feel free to leave it in the comments or e-mail me. I love new ideas. And here’s the deal: I know that some people will say that $300 for a French oven is extreme, or “decadent,” or crazy. I have a little something to say to those of you about that. See, I’ve had four or five hand mixers since 2008- all of them broke on me, except the last one, which is a $99 KitchenAid 9-speed digital model. And the other ones were NOT KitchenAid, and definitely not $99. One of them died mixing cheesecake, which is understandable. A hand mixer and cheesecake shouldn’t really mix. But the rest? One sputtered and slowed down during a batch of buttercream, and another one just didn’t start one day. Another had something rattling around inside of it after a few uses, which was not only unsettling in and of itself, but it smelled like burning plastic when I turned it on. Who knows what that even was. That’s just one small example, but let me say that now I’ve officially learned my lesson: sometimes, you really do just get what you pay for. And as far as Le Creuset vs. a cheaper model dutch oven goes, this post from the Local Kitchen explains it better than I can.
I’d rather pay a little more one time than pay less over & over again, regretting my decision. When your cheap(er) dutch oven gets chips in it within a month, and scratches n the inside enamel, & mine still looks brand new, we can talk about decadence; specifically how wasteful & decadent it is to buy a less expensive item more than once just to prove a point, rather than investing in one that costs more & lasts longer.