Having recently purchased Jim Lahey’s wonderful book My Bread, I was eager to try out a new no-knead recipe. Investigating the pantry, I spied a bag of coconut that had been sitting there for far too long, and a bag of chocolate chips that had been opened by the Long Suffering Husband.
Uh oh. The LSH will allow cookies, crackers and chocolate chips to remain untouched for a time, but at a certain point, the “statute of limitations” comes into effect. This means that if I haven’t used it, I lose it. Also, once something is opened, it rapidly disappears. All this activity takes place invisibly. I think he has found a way to eat while he’s asleep. On second thought, it’s probably while I’m asleep.
At any rate, the situation called for decisive action, so I settled on Jim Lahey’s Coconut Chocolate Bread. Lahey’s no-knead breads take very little work, but you have to plan ahead, which is a deal breaker for a lot of people. I don’t always remember to put the bread up 18 hours in advance. Still, the results are well worth the trouble. I dumped everything in the bowl and mixed it.
Right away, I suspected something was wrong. The dough seemed very stiff, not loose the way Lahey dough normally is. The loose dough allows the yeast to work its way through, developing the gluten so that you end up with that slightly elastic texture which good bread has. But this was a new recipe. I had never tried a Lahey bread with additions, so I didn’t worry too much.
The next day when I checked the dough, it was still stiff. It had risen, but it didn’t have the trademark bubbly surface. Checking the recipe, I realized that I had put in all the coconut at once, instead of retaining half to add while shaping it. My main worry at this point was that the bread would turn out cakey instead of bready, due to insufficient development of the gluten. That’s when I veered completely off Lahey’s instructions, and decided to bake it in a loaf pan instead of a pot. If it was going to resemble a tea bread, I wanted a nice soft crust. I dumped the bread in the pan and let it rise for another hour. We are experiencing a very cold winter, so I used a heating pad wrapped in a towel–a tip from a bread-baking friend.
Cast adrift from the mooring of my recipe, I had to figure out what temperature to use and how long to bake it. I settled on 350F (176C) for an hour, which would be normal for a loaf of quick bread. At the end of the hour, it was not as brown as I wanted, so I gave it another ten minutes.
Words cannot express how good this bread smells while it’s cooking. And it tastes amazing. With all that coconut, the texture is a bit chewy and dense, like a macaroon cookie, but with the flavor of good bread too. If I make it again, I’ll follow the same procedures. The Long Suffering Husband, by the way, waited until I was in bed, and then went to the freezer and pulled out the container of bread and ate two more slices. It was silly of me to think it would last long enough to need freezing.