Jerky Basics, Part 2: A Good Day To Dry

Can you make jerky without a dehydrator? Yes, you can. You can use a smoker, for one thing – but if you have a smoker, you probably already know a lot more than I do about its capabilities. But there are also other ways.

One way to make jerky is in the oven. Depending on the type of jerky you’re making, you can lay the strips horizontally across your oven racks, or use skewers to dangle them vertically between the rungs of a rack. There are also specially-made racks designed for hanging jerky in an oven.

The oven is kept at a very low temperature, and the door is usually propped open to allow moisture to escape.

Another method is the one demonstrated by Alton Brown on his Food Network series “Good Eats.” Alton does not like using heat on his jerky – he prefers the rare flavor to the cooked flavor. But regular dehydrators, if you ran them on a low-temperature setting, just don’t have enough power to dry the meat quickly with air power alone. And it’s important to dry the meat as quickly as you can in order to prevent spoilage. Alton’s solution is to use inexpensive furnace filters, connected by bungee cord to a box fan. I’ve wanted to try this ever since I first saw Alton do it on TV. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m going to one of these days.

Here, from the Food Network web site, is a heavily-edited version of that episode of “Good Eats,” including Alton’s marinade recipe (which we’ll revisit in a later installment) and a look at his ingenious drying system.

So there are alternatives to a dehydrator. But I like my dehydrator – and I can use it not only for beef jerky, but for things like apple chips or banana chips. If I have extra onions, I can dry them. I can make fruit leather (a homemade version of the product sold in stores as Fruit Roll-Ups). For some people, a dehydrator is a kitchen gimmick. For me, it’s a useful tool, although I probably don’t use it as often as I ought.

Dehydrators are available year-round at Walmart – but at Christmastime, they generally have a larger selection. That’s not necessarily a good thing, because some of the added options are super-low-cost dehydrators in the $30 range. These do not have temperature controls. If you see a dehydrator without a temperature control, you know it’s set hot – for jerky-making. In fact, some are now set a few degrees higher than they used to be in order to hit the USDA-recommended temperature of 160 degrees for jerky-making.

The trouble is that without a temperature control, the dehydrator will be less-than-perfect for other tasks – banana chips, apple chips, herbs, fruit leathers and what have you. The packaging may claim the cheap dehydrator will still be versatile enough to do all those things, but trust me – they won’t turn out as well without the proper temperature setting for each job. And if you only use the dehydrator for jerky, it becomes a gadget instead of a tool. Spend a few dollars extra and get a dehydrator with a variable temperature setting.

I can’t give you a comprehensive comparison of various dehydrators; I’ve only owned three, and two of them have been essentially the same model. So please don’t take this as a comprehensive review. Also, let me say that this is not any sort of sponsored post and I have no connection to NESCO/American Harvest. (This site is a member of the Amazon Affiliates Program, and I’m including affiliate links for some of the mentioned products, but that won’t influence my reviews.)

Many of the more expensive, high-end dehydrators have trays in the form of drawers. I’ve not used one of these. All of my dehydrators have been the kind with stackable trays. The benefit of this is that the size of the dehydrator changes with the amount of jerky or other product you are drying. Check online before you buy – find out how many trays the dehydrator comes with and how many it will support. For example, my current dehydrator – a Nesco FD-60 Snackmaster Express – comes with four trays, but it’s powerful enough to work with as many as 12 trays. My previous dehydrator was also an FD-60, and I still have two trays from that one, so I can run with as many as six trays. The trays can also be bought as expansion kits.

The trays in the FD-60 use a plastic grate. I believe some of the higher-end dehydrators use screens.

The trouble with the plastic trays, as I discovered, is that they’re fragile. If you scrub them too hard, they’ll crack – and, eventually, break. I had so many broken trays that replacing them would have cost nearly as much as buying a brand new FD-60. I’ve learned my lesson. The owner’s manual to the new FD-60 advises you to simply soak the trays in soapy water, and then use a soft brush only if absolutely necessary to remove a few stubborn bits of stuck-on food. You can wash the trays in a dishwasher (which I don’t have), as long as you remove them before the drying cycle.

I think my two surviving “old” trays were actually expansion trays I bought separately, and so they were slightly newer than the others.

The FD-60 has the fan and heating element on top of the stack; some other units have it on the bottom. One benefit to having the motor on top is that there’s no way for wet items to drip into it, but I don’t think it’s a major issue either way. NESCO claims its trays force the air to blow horizontally across each tray, preventing the air streams from various trays from mixing together, and allowing you to dry various types of items together at the same time. I haven’t really tried this much, and there are limits to it anyway because, as previously noted, different items may require different temperatures anyway. NESCO also claims its system eliminates the need to rotate trays. Some dehydrators that blow vertically tend to give more attention to the trays closest to the motor, and so occasionally you have to shuffle the trays in order to ensure even drying.

Many dehydrators, including the FD-60, come with a fruit leather tray, a plastic sheet that’s used for drying fruit leathers into Fruit Roll-Up-style snacks. Just as with the trays, you can also buy additional sheets separately.

In a future post, we’ll talk about the differences between whole muscle (sliced) and ground meat jerky. But since we’re talking about equipment here, I’ll go ahead and mention another jerky accessory: a jerky gun. Depending on your interests or background, I can compare this to either a) a caulking gun or b) a cookie press. It’s a ratchet-driven gun that you use to extrude seasoned and cured ground meat into a thin strip for jerky-making. It’s the best way to make ground meat jerky. If you don’t have one, you can roll out the ground meat between sheets of wax paper, then cut it into individual strips, but it’s tricky to move the strips of jerky from a countertop or table onto the dehydrator without them falling apart. With the jerky gun, you can just extrude the strips directly onto the tray – no transportation necessary. The gun comes with tips to produce various types of strips (or even sticks, which will look like Slim Jims but have a completely different consistency). If you do have a cookie press, of course, you may have an existing die or nozzle that will work.

If you prefer whole muscle jerky, Hi Mountain Jerky makes an ingenious cutting board with a recessed inset which allows you to slice the meat at a consistent thickness. You set the piece of meat in the inset, then rest the knife blade on the raised edges on either side and draw it across horizontally, making a slice off the bottom exactly as thick as the recess is deep. There’s a 1/4” recess on one side of the board and a 3/8” recess on the other, so you can pick the size jerky you want to make. I haven’t used it, but it seems like a great idea. When you’re dehydrating jerky – or most other things – consistent thickness is important because it means everything will get done at the same time.

Now that we’ve talked about equipment, in the next installment we’ll talk about actually making jerky.

Jerky Basics:

Jerky Basics, Part 1: An Overview

Regular readers of this blog are used to hearing about my jerky-making. I thought it would be fun to take some of what I’ve learned over the years, along with links to people who know a lot more than I do, and put all of the information in one place. So this is the first of a special series of jerky-related posts, which I hope will be interesting and useful.

I love jerky. What’s not to love? It’s salty, and smoky, and chewy, and (often) peppery, and just generally a wonderful snack. When properly made, it’s low-fat and high-protein (it’s nowhere near low-sodium, of course, so you can’t exactly call it health food).

Multiple sources I’ve found online suggest that the word “jerky” came from the Quechua word “ch’arki,” which the Spanish invaders turned into “charque.” Jerky began with the native Americans, and it was a way of preserving meat and making it easily transportable. Today, we think of salt and smoke as flavor elements, but the salt is actually there as a preservative, and the early jerky was dried over a fire, the smoke helping to keep away insects. Even the peppery flavor of jerky may relate to ancient people recognizing capsaicin’s natural anti-microbial properties.

In its finished form, jerky is well-preserved because it’s a quite inhospitable place for microbes. There’s little moisture, and that moisture is a hyper-saturated syrup of salt, sugar, and possibly other ingredients such as nitrite cures. The trouble comes in getting a nice, refrigerated piece of raw meat from point A to point B in a safe manner while preserving the expected flavor profiles. Jerky-making takes time, and time increases the risk of spoilage if you don’t handle the meat correctly.

There are differences of opinion about what’s safe and what’s tasty. The USDA insists that jerky be heated to a minimum of 160 degrees, essentially cooking it, before it is dried. But some sources, such as wildlife writer A.D. Livingston and Food Network personality Alton Brown, say that the flavor of cooked jerky is different and that carefully-sourced and carefully-handled meat can be dried at lower temperatures to preserve more of the rare beef flavor.

Jerky’s been around for ages, but its renewed popularity in the past decade or two stems from high-protein diet fads and from the easy availability of electric dehydrators. I use a dehydrator to make jerky, and so that’s most of what I’ll talk about here, but there are other methods, and I’ll mention them as well.

Making your own jerky has several advantages. It’s fun; it costs a lot less per ounce than store-bought jerky (although you may end up eating more of it, which eliminates some of the savings), and it lets you control flavors and ingredients.

First, let’s define what jerky is. Jerky can be made from a variety of meats, not just beef and venison. The selection of usable meats increases if you’re willing to cook the meat before drying it. Beef, of course, is readily available everywhere, and venison jerky is popular because it gives hunters a way to dispose of excess meat. A couple of years ago, a high-school classmate of mine had a large amount of venison and offered, if I would make it into jerky, to let me keep half of the finished product. I’d have done it as a favor to him, although I much prefer beef jerky to venison jerky. In any case, he never followed through.

Most of what I’ll write here applies equally well to beef and venison jerky, so if you’ve got venison, you’re in business.

Jerky, in its simplest form, is meat that has been flavored and/or cured, and then dried. It does not have to be — and should not be — completely dessicated or rock-hard. It should have enough moisture to remain chewable.

Beef sticks, like Slim Jims, are not beef jerky. They’re a form of sausage, made with a casing, and are much higher in fat than jerky. Jerky-makers try to avoid fat as much as possible.

There are two different types of jerky: whole muscle, or sliced, jerky, and ground meat jerky. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll explore.

That’s a quick overview to get us started. In the next installment, I’ll talk about equipment.

Jerky Basics:

Back in the drying business

The other day, I posted about the sad shape into which the trays of my dehydrator had fallen. I planned to find a dehydrator at Goodwill or pick up a new one later this summer.

I got an e-mail from a good friend out of state (I’m not sure if she’d want me to identify her, so I’ll leave it out for now) who asked if she could give me a dehydrator. I turned her down, but she offered again. I looked at Goodwill, and they had every type of kitchen gadget except dehydrators, and then, feeling guilty about it, I accepted. This was the source of my Facebook post the other day about having better friends than I deserve.

The dehydrator arrived today. It’s basically the same model I used to have, but with a couple of tweaks and improvements. I’m thrilled! I had to break it in, and (like most dehydrators) it came with sample packets of the dry cure and seasoning you use for ground meat jerky. So I went and bought some ground beef and some slightly-green bananas (which work better for banana chips). The beef jerky should be done before I go to bed tonight, and I’ll put some banana chips in overnight. NESCO claims that the air flow in its trays prevents flavor-mixing, so in theory you can dry sweet and savory items at the same time. But  you can’t do beef and bananas at the same time because they take different temperatures. As I stated in the previous post, you should never buy a dehydrator without a temperature control; if it’s set hot enough for jerky, which is probable, it’s too hot for a lot of other uses, such as banana chips.

By the way, the standard for “hot enough for jerky” has crept up slightly. My old dehydrator’s top setting, used for jerky, was 155 degrees; this one is 160 degrees, which is what the USDA recommends for dried meat. However, the salt, sugar, and acid in jerky seasonings and marinades, and the fact that you’re removing most of the moisture, go a long way towards reducing the risk. I’ve never had any problem with homemade jerky, my own or anyone else’s. Alton Brown on his show “Good Eats” recommends using no heat at all – he jury-rigs a box fan and furnace filters to provide enough airflow to dry the meat quickly without adding heat (see the video below). I have to admit that I’ve sometimes used slightly lower-than-recommended heat settings on jerky, especially if I was letting it run overnight and didn’t want to get it jaw-breakingly dry.

Anyway, I’m going to make some jerky for my benefactor, but I’m not sending any from tonight’s batch. The ground meat jerky seasonings that come with dehydrators, and that are sold next to the dehydrators at Walmart, are OK but usally kind of boring. I will wait and make some whole-muscle jerky using my normal marinade (which is based on Alton Brown’s, as seen below), and send that, or else I’ll make some ground meat jerky using Hi Mountain Jerky seasonings, which are excellent. They are sometimes found at Walmart, but usually over in the grocery section rather than next to the dehydrators.

I am just thrilled to have the dehydrator. I have a few extra sweet onions kicking around, and tomorrow I may try drying them out before they sprout on me.

Crumbling jerky infrastructure

I found a type of lean roast with lengthwise grain – perfect for jerky, but normally too expensive – on sale for half price at the grocery store today.

The jerky is in my dehydrator right now, but as I put it there I realized into what poor shape my dehydrator has fallen. The problem is not the part with the fan and heating element – the problem is with the plastic trays that allow air to circulate around the food. They’re made of plastic, tricky to clean, and I’ve had my dehyrdator so long, and used it so often, that they’re starting to fall apart. I had to throw one away today, and several others have holes in them (I just laid strips of jerky over the holes).

You can get replacement / expansion trays; the dehydrator originally came with four trays, if I recall correctly, and I bought a two-pack of expansion trays twice. At its peak, it had eight trays. Now it’s down to five, almost all of them in poor shape.

It would cost $38 to buy six new trays on Amazon. That’s somewhere between the cost of the cheapest Nesco dehydrator on Amazon and the next-to-cheapest, which is the one I own. So I probably need to just bite the bullet and get a new dehydrator. It may be a couple of months before I can get to it.

Unfortunately, the cheapest dehydrator – $30 – does not have a temperature control. That means it’s permanently set to the maximum temperature, which means it’s OK for beef jerky, but too hot (no matter what the instructions say) to do banana chips, apple chips or things like that. And sometimes, especially if I’m letting a batch of jerky in the dehydrator run overnight, I want to turn it down to a little lower than the recommended jerky setting.

Maybe I’ll check Goodwill; I’m sure there are people who’ve bought dehydrators and used them once or twice before getting tired of them.

Unnecessary food review

Ever buy some goofy new food item just because you have a coupon for it?

Well, my purchase in that category this week was Kraft Fresh Take03079CF, a seemingly-ridiculous product idea that actually turned out … not half bad.

You find it in the refrigerated section next to the cheese. It’s basically a big zip-top bag with two sections – one containing a shredded cheese mix, the other a seasoned breadcrumb mix. There are several different flavor varieties, differing in the types of cheese and the way the breadcrumbs are seasoned. The idea is that when you open the bag, you break the seal between the two compartments, and you shake the cheese and breadcrumbs together. Then, you use the zip-top bag full of cheese-and-breadcrumb mixture to bread pieces of chicken, pork or fish, just as you would with Shake ‘N Bake. Because of the size and texture of the cheese shreds, they warn you that the breading won’t completely cover the meat, but you do the best you can and then sprinkle and pat the excess on top once the pieces are on a greased baking sheet. That actually ends up giving you pretty good coverage on top, and as long as you don’t look at the bottom (why would you?) you’re good to go.

Then, you bake – just as you would with Shake ‘N Bake.

I had some chicken thighs at home. When I opened the package to see the directions inside, they were for pork chops, fish or boneless chicken breasts. I figured that if I skinned and deboned the thighs and watched for doneness, they’d work just as well, and they did. The cheese gives the crust a different texture than breadcrumbs alone would give, and it’s actually quite good. Of course, it could probably be done just as well, and more cheaply, by buying shredded cheese and breadcrumbs separately, and adding your own seasonings, but that’s an experiment for some other time. (These breadcrumbs were more heavily seasoned, and towards more specific flavors, than the “seasoned breadcrumbs” you buy in the store.)

I’m not very hungry tonight, owing to the huge breakfast-for-lunch I had at Cracker Barrel in Florence, Ala., following the UNA Spring Football Game, but I had one of the thighs with a little bit of rice just now (I cooked the rice with the bones and stray bits of chicken thigh) and I’ll save the others for lunch tomorrow and Monday.

Does the title of the review mean that the food is unnecessary or that the review is unnecessary? I shall leave that to you to decide.

It’s not a good thing

Martha Stewart is making stock on PBS. She is using a small sieve to skim the foamy gray stuff that gathers on the top when you first start to simmer broth or stock, and she keeps referring to it, over and over, as fat. No! The grey scum is a form of protein, and it’s a completely different substance from the clear chicken fat (which a sieve wouldn’t be much help with).

Obviously, there’s fat gathering at the top of the stock as well, but you can easily wait until the stock or broth is finished before removing it (which Martha does). When you chill the stock, the fat will rise to the top and solidify, and you can easily spoon it off the top. If you need to use the broth immediately, and don’t have time to chill it, you can use one of those separators that pours from the bottom.

Another difference is that the foamy protein scum can only be thrown away. Some cooks save the chicken fat, as unhealthy as that sounds, and do things with it.

The fat and that protein foam are two different things, and someone presenting herself as an expert ought to know the difference. Martha should watch Alton Brown, who actually knows what he’s talking about.

It only occurred to me just now that there’s a joke to be made about Martha Stewart and her criminal treatment of stock. That wasn’t my original intention.

The Mind of a Chef

If you’ve been missing Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel, and are waiting for the premiere of his “Parts Unknown” this spring on CNN, you may be interested in another show – executive produced by Bourdain, narrated by Bourdain, but not about him or featuring him on camera.

“The Mind of a Chef”  is a travelogue food show with Chef David Chang interacting with other chefs each week – as the name implies, it tries to explore a chef’s thinking, how he or she looks at food and cooking, and so on. It airs on weekends on your local PBS station, but you may have to look for it in the listings or your DVR guide.


Watch The Mind of a Chef – Preview on PBS. See more from PBS.


The man in the bow tie

kimballAlthough Food Network and Cooking Channel (both owned by Scripps and sharing resources and even some of the same programs) are collectively the 900-pound gorilla of food-related television, it’s amazing sometimes how little creativity they show in their instructional programming. They seem to think that success comes, not from imaginative or new approaches, but from finding some new and highly-marketable personality, someone like Guy Fieri or Ann Burrell who can move product. But they plug those personalities into one of two or three pretty-standard format. In the original format, it’s just the chef in a kitchen cooking and talking to us. There’s also a second format with a little bit of a story to it – “My friend Sally is coming over later, and I’m going to make her favorite dessert,” with some obviously-staged scenes at the end of the program where we see the chef serving Sally the meal and Sally oohing and ahhing over it.

There have been occasional exceptions to the format, most of them no longer on the air:

  • “Emeril Live,” of course, featured a studio audience and a high-energy vibe keyed to Emeril’s personality. I don’t hold that against Emeril, because I think Emeril’s got a little bit more substance than Guy Fieri.
  • Hosts like Alton Brown or “Nadia G.” (Nadia Giosia) who combine entertainment with cooking, incorporating characters and sketch comedy elements. But Alton’s “Good Eats” has gone out of production, and Food Network now uses him (wastes him) mostly as a host for its inane and repetitive food competition shows. Thankfully, “Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen” is still going strong.
  • “Cooking Live,” which was hosted by Sara Moulton, was actually live (the “live” in “Emeril Live” referred to the live audience; the show itself was pre-recorded). She took calls from viewers and had to deal with mishaps or catastrophes in real time.
  • “Hot Off The Grill” was an early Bobby Flay show that apparently had some behind-the-scenes friction. But as a viewer, I thought it was terrific – it was set in sort of a dinner-party atmosphere, with Flay cooking and co-host Jacqui Malouf, who played the part of the viewer, peppering Bobby with questions and getting him to explain what he was doing and why. Bobby would recruit the other “guests” at the party into helping him with routine chopping or stirring, and the “guests” often included a wine expert, a meat expert and so on, who could be called upon for their expertise when necessary. Flay can sometimes come across as arrogant and self-absorbed, and I thought Malouf punctured that a little bit and made him more likeable.
  • “How To Boil Water” is a title that has popped up more than once in Food Network’s history. The original versions were standard single-host shows, giving both Emeril and Sara Moulton their first appearances on the network. Those were on the air long before I had access to Food Network. But there was a later version that featured a chef (Frederic van Coppernolle, later Tyler Florence) and a comic (Lynne Koplitz, and later Jack Hourigan, who despite her name was, well, a her). The premise was that one was teaching the other, which allowed Koplitz or Hourigan to serve as a viewer surrogate, ask questions, and so on.
  • Mario Batali’s “Molto Mario” featured, in each episode, three of Mario’s friends sitting at a nearby counter as he cooked. Again, they were viewer surrogates, sometimes asking questions, and reacting as Mario served them their food.
  • “Food 911” featured Tyler Florence traveling around the country to help viewers with their cooking problems. A typical letter might be from a wife trying to compete with her mother-in-law’s interpretation of some traditional old country dish. Florence would show up and teach the viewer how to make a tasty and authentic version. The show was was later remade with a different host under a different title, which I can’t remember to save my life.

I’ve mentioned the idea of viewer surrogates in cooking shows before, and I think they help keep things interesting. “Ask Aida,” in which Aida Molleknkamp cooked dishes based on viewer questions, was much more entertaining during its first season, when she had an in-studio co-host as a viewer surrogate, than during its second, when it turned into a standard single-host cooking show. (The in-studio co-host was a regrettably-hokey nerd stereotype, who sat in front of a laptop supposedly checking the e-mail for viewer messages and videos, but even so it was better than Aida by herself.)

I bring all of this up because I’m a long-time viewer of both  “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Cook’s Country,” which are basically two separate half hours of the same program. “America’s Test Kitchen” is affiliated with Cook’s Illustrated magazine, while “Cook’s Country” is affiliated with its sister publication, also called Cook’s Country. Both are hosted by bow-tied Christopher Kimball, who runs the magazines and TV shows, and both feature the same supporting casts of chefs and kitchen experts. Each is presented in a sort of magazine format. One of the chefs – say, Bridget Lancaster – will  demonstrate how to make a dish, explaining the process to Kimball. Then, we’ll have a segment where the kitchen equipment expert shows Kimball several different non-stick skillets and tells him which one the magazine recommends as the best value. Then, another recipe, with a different chef. Then, a blind taste test, where Kimball tries unmarked samples of dark chocolate and then is told whether his favorite matches that of the magazine’s testing panel.

The interaction between Kimball and the series regulars – all of whom are co-workers on the magazine, and all of whom engage in gentle teasing, enjoying the chance to needle their boss, Kimball, in front of a nationwide TV audience – is part of what makes the show fun. The magazine format keeps things moving and keeps it from being dull or repetitive. “America’s Test Kitchen” is the only show I can think of other than “Good Eats” that spends much time on kitchen hardware, surely an important part of culinary success or failure.

“The Chew,” which airs weekdays on ABC, also uses a magazine format and multiple hosts (including Batali). I’ve only seen it a few times, but I’ve enjoyed it. I need to start DVRing it every now and then.

All of which raises the question – why can’t Food Network/Cooking Channel come up with anything half this creative? Why can’t they shake up the format? Why are they locked into standard single-host shows, with over-theatrical hosts, usually chosen by means of “The Next Food Network Star,” trying to differentiate themselves with catch-phrases or gimmicks?

That kind of food programming leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth.

If you knew sushi

They say there is no free lunch, but today I had two.

First thing this morning, I won a Whopper combo on WLIJ-AM during their daily be-the-correct-caller-and-name-the-song giveaway. (Thanks, Brad Paisley!) I picked up my Burger King gift certificate from the radio station and ended up eating lunch relatively early.

Then, Doug Dezotell stopped by the newsroom and offered to take Sadie Fowler out to Yamato, a Japanese steak-and-sushi place. He asked if I wanted to come along, and I told him I’d already eaten. Doug left, planning to meet Sadie at the restaurant a while later. A few minutes after Doug had left the building, my cell phone rang.

“Don’t you at least have room for six pieces of sushi?” he asked.

With all due respect to the makers of Jell-O and their classic slogan, there’s always room for sushi. So Sadie, David Melson and I joined Doug at Yamato and I had six pieces of the Philadelphia roll (smoked salmon, avocado, cream cheese). I usually go for the raw tuna, but I like smoked salmon and figured I’d give the Philadelphia roll a try. It was good sushi and good company, and I appreciate Doug talking me into coming along.

Loafing on a Saturday

I have really enjoyed the recipe I got during last fall’s T-G cooking show for a yeast-raised flatbread dough which you keep in a bowl in the fridge, using a bit as you need it. It keeps up to two weeks in the fridge, and the yeasty flavor changes and improves during that time. It stirs together in a bowl, with no kneading required.

So, I found this recipe for a loaf bread which works pretty much the same way. It makes enough for three or four loaves. Like the flatbread recipe, you don’t knead it; you stir it together into a sticky dough. You let it sit on the countertop loosely covered for a couple of hours for an initial rise, then cover it tightly and put it into the fridge.

When you get ready to bake a loaf, you sprinkle a little flour on the surface of what’s in the bowl to make it easier to handle, then pull out the desired amount and shape it easily into a little round loaf. You let the round loaf rest on the counter for 40 minutes or an hour before baking. The yeast is still quite active, and the loaf rises well in the oven. You bake it on a pizza stone on the middle rack, with a pan of water on the bottom rack to provide steam, which helps the crust.

When you pull it out of the oven, it looks a little – no, exactly – like this:


I’m about to go for a walk, and when I get back it will have cooled and I’ll get a slice and taste it. It smells pretty darn wonderful.

As with the flatbread recipe, the dough lasts for two weeks in the fridge. The recipe says that, also like the flatbread, the yeast flavor develops during that time.

Another option for baking the loaf is to use a slow cooker, and I may try that next time. If the crust isn’t brown enough to suit you using the slow cooker method, you just put the bread under the broiler for a few minutes.