Mice live in my kitchen. I don’t say that metaphorically or tentatively. No, the mice live in my kitchen, and they have been living in that kitchen since we moved into the apartment several years ago. I spot a mouse once per week, on average, usually when the oven gets hot enough to make its living quarters uncomfortable. The mouse usually dashes out from under the oven, barely missing my feet, and scurries across the kitchen floor, eventually taking refuge under the fridge.
The first time I saw a mouse in our house was also the night of Sean’s very first nightshift nursing rotation. Oddly enough, I’d never slept in our apartment without him until that night. At 9 pm, I was dancing around in the entry way, pajama-clad, as one does when one is home alone. Then I saw it: a mouse was stuck on one of the traps our landlord had recently laid out near the oven. The mouse squirmed and squealed. Gavyn, my dog, was no help – he was unnerved by the poor animal and hightailed it into our bedroom. I knew I couldn’t save the mouse, so I turned off the kitchen lights and followed Gavyn. At just that moment, another mouse dashed out from a hole in the bedroom wall, aiming itself directly under my bed.
I screamed at the top of my lungs and flew onto the bed, refusing to turn off the light for hours, convinced mouse #2 was about to sneak up on me, to take his revenge for the life of mouse #1. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night.
There was, however, one bonus to this whole mouse situation – and only one. After five exterminator visits and no progress, our landlord eventually decided to replace our oven. The mice were probably living in the oven, she reasoned. So if we replaced their home, maybe they’d leave.
This rationale was, of course, totally flawed. But our original oven was uneven and finicky – it randomly burned some things and completely undercooked others. So I said yes, and wriggled with disgust when they found not one but five dead mice under our original oven. The delivery men cleaned up the dead mice, ignoring my gagging, and installed a sparkly new oven. A week later, I assessed that the mice had moved in again, happily shacking up in a newer, shinier mouse mansion oven.
The good news is that my baking game has improved significantly since the arrival of this new oven. I can (finally!) make bread and my baked goods come out evenly cooked. I rarely burn cookies anymore.
So, in honor of my mouse friends and foes, I want to share my favorite bread recipe with you all. I made this recipe for this first time when I was in Seattle with my family forChristmas vacation. It was so good that I made it the day after we returned to Boston, and now I make a batch every Sunday for the week ahead, too.
No Knead Artisan Bread for Busy People
Servings: 3 small loaves, enough to last you through one week // Time: 5 minutes at the outset, then about 2 hours of hands-off work later on
- 3 cups lukewarm water, about 100 degrees F
- 1 T active dry yeast
- 1 T kosher salt
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
To start, simply add all the above ingredients into a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough is wet and sticky with no dry patches. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid, but don’t seal it airtight – you want the air to get in.
Let this dough rise for about 2 hours at room temperature. Then, if you’re not going to make it right away, put it in the fridge, covered. The best thing about this dough is that it can stay in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, and it only gets better with time.
When you’re ready to make bread, pull a handful (about the size of a grapefruit, or 1/3 of the bowl of dough) from the fridge and dust it with flour. Tuck and stretch the edges to form a smooth, round ball. Then put it on a cutting board (or pizza peel) dusted with flour, so it doesn’t stick, and let that rise for 30-90 minutes.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can add mix-ins during this stage. Our favorite mix-ins are shredded sharp cheddar cheese + green onions, roasted garlic + hers, and cinnamon + raisins.
20 minutes before you want to bake your bread, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a tray that’s at least one inch deep at the bottom of the oven (make sure it’s not glass), as you’ll eventually add water to the oven. Place a baking stone or cast iron skillet on the middle rack, so that it heats with the oven.
Dust the loaf with flour again and make 3 diagonal cuts across the top with a knife. Then slide the dough onto the preheated baking surface (a pizza peel is great for this), pour 1 cup of water into the metal pan, and close the oven door quickly to trap the steam. The combination of the steam and the pre-heated pan will give your bread a crispy crust.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the crust is browned and it sounds hollow if you knock on it. Cool to room temperature… or, if you’re like me, pull off a hunk and eat it warm!