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Laurie Notaro, What Are You Baking?

Even if your oven sits cold all year, chances are you're considering firing it up, right about now. As a holiday twist on our "What Are You Eating?" feature on Chow Bella and "What Are You Wearing?" on Jackalope Ranch, for the next few weeks we'll be bringing you "What...
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Even if your oven sits cold all year, chances are you're considering firing it up, right about now. As a holiday twist on our "What Are You Eating?" feature on Chow Bella and "What Are You Wearing?" on Jackalope Ranch, for the next few weeks we'll be bringing you "What Are You Baking?" Complete with a recipe, so you can DIY.

Today, Laurie Notaro shares her recipe for Rustic Tuscan Bread.

So technically, Laurie Notaro doesn't live here any more. She split for Eugene, Oregon years ago. But she remains one of Phoenix's literary stars and haunts her favorite Valley restaurants when she's in town. Plus, she bakes year-round. So we asked Notaro -- whose latest book, a non-fiction collection called It Looked Different on the Model will be released in May -- to whip something up and tell us about it. Boy, did she.

What are you baking for the holidays this year?
Absolutely nothing except this bread. My mother does all the baking, which
she does in mid December, and we were never allowed to sneak any cookies,
plus she hid them (I believe in her closet next to her shoes). By the time
Christmas rolled around, they were always pretty...firm. Like they had been
baking on a mud plain in the Sudan for a season. I had no idea soft
chocolate chip cookies came in a "soft" (ie: fresh) version until Paradise
Valley Mall opened and I discovered cookies actually came out of the oven
warm and gooey. Even this didn't deter her; she stuck to the plan, and
considering the genetic dental map, I can't believe anyone tries to still
eat them without softening them up in the food processor. I think we have
five real teeth left between us.

Favorite holiday treats?

I'd eat fudge if I found it on the sidewalk. I'd check it first, but I really love fudge. It hurts my real tooth, though.

Get Notaro's adapted recipe for Rustic Tuscan bread after the jump.

Least favorite holiday foods?

Anything I have to bake. But I made this bread for you. I got the recipe
from the New York Times--it's Jim Lahey's (Sullivan Bakery) No-Knead bread
recipe, except that I've adapted it, so someone, quick! Give me a book deal
for a cookbook (that's my very evil joke about bloggers who 'borrow' other
people's recipes, adjust the amount of salt by an eighth of a teaspoon, call
it their own and blamo!, get a cook book book deal. Only church ladies and
the incarcerated should be able to do that, in my opinion, and in those
instances, the book has to have a black plastic spiral bind, like from

Anyway, to be honest, the bread is great, but the recipe is a pain
in the ass. I'll rephrase that. It is a massive pain in the ass, it's the
colonoscopy of bread making. There is almost as much math involved here as
it took to build the Super-Collider, and for someone who still has to carry
the one, that's a bit of a challenge. So I eliminated a couple of steps,
worked out a feasible time frame, and seriously, it worked out just fine. If
you don't believe me, look st the pictures. I used a Hipstamtaic, although
in some pictures, the bread turned out green and looked a little
...bacterial. I didn't submit those. But see? Hipstamatic? Cook book deal?

Any food items on your holiday wish list this year?
Fudge, but I was exaggerating about the sidewalk part when it comes to

No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery 
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours' rising

The Minimalist: The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the
(November 8, 2006)

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon Quik-Rise yeast ( I changed this to half a teaspoon)
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed (No thank you, I'm already halfway to Type
II diabetes, so I'm sticking with flour.) 

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and
stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic
wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room
temperature, about 70 degrees.

(See, this is where I first get into trouble and I'm already muttering,
"Bull. Shit," on step one, that's not exactly promising. But, if you use
your fingers and some piggies, you might discover that if it's a Saturday,
you can easily toss all of this stuff in a bowl by ten am, stick some
plastic wrap over it and let it be. Allllllll day. And then, if you're in
your 40's and get into your pj's as soon as your light timers all start
going on, you will be home by ten pm for the next step. If it's a work day,
throw the stuff in the bowl before you leave for work, which, if it's at
say, eight am, you should be ready for the punch down at eight pm, and move
on to Step 3, as adapted by Laurie Notaro.)

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a
work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and
fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and
let rest about 15 minutes.

(I did this the first time I made it. I forgot the second time I made it and
did not suffer for it. Skip it, I say! Throw it out like a receipt for
something you already ate!)

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to
your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a
cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough
seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover
with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready,
dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when
poked with a finger.

(I decided that this was sort of stupid, so I cheated here, too. Again, did
it the first time, skipped the second time, plus I only had a dish towel with
dog hair on it. I 1) simply punched the dough down in the bowl, 2) went
back to the living room, 3) watched Dog the Bounty Hunter for another two
hours, 4) then put the dough in the fridge overnight. I can buy a loaf of
great (OK, decent) bread at Fry's for $1.99, plus I saw a crackhead jump out
of a two-story window barefoot and scurry into a swamp canal that even Beth
wouldn't go into. I didn't feel bad about skipping this step, and you
shouldn't either. Hassle is what I don't need when I'm making bread and
there are crackheads trying to fly on TV. Seriously. I am busy.)


4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put
a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in
oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide
your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may
look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is
unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and
bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until
loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

(Yeah, okay, this part was fine. So the next morning, I turned on the oven
to 450 degrees, took the dough out, and let it sit out for half an hour to
return to room temperature while the oven heated with the Corningware dish
in it. Only then did I dust a dish towel (after using a lint roller on it)
with flour, formed the dough into the ball, and then, when the oven was hot,
plopped the bread into the hot dish from the dishtowel. The dough sizzles a
bit when it hits the dish. I loved that part. It sounded like a sunburn. I
added Butcher's Salt on top of mine because I already have high blood
pressure, and in about 20 minutes, I smelled baking. Incredible. From here
out, I followed the directions, and as you can see (Hipstamatic pictures),
my bread was beautiful. And tasted exactly like the first loaf but with way
less bullshit.)

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.


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