Easy Miso Bread; AKA I Ain’t Got Time for That Sourdough Marathon Bread; AKA 80/20 Bread

For folks looking to make their own bread at home (or bread to share with neighbors), I’m sharing my recipe for an easy-to-make, very-little-kneading round rustic bread. It’s super forgiving recipe that makes crowd-pleasing bread without needing a sourdough starter or a KitchenAid mixer.

Mine’s a variation on Eric at Breadtopia’s Almost No Knead recipe , which is based on Cook Illustrated’s recipe, which was inspired by NYT’s Mark Bittman’s influential 4-hour bread (read the first comment or watch the video for the real recipe).

Mine’s a bit different in that I use miso to make it sourdough-ish. That works because miso is fermented, giving you echos of sourdough’s fermentation without the work.

If you are absolutely new to bread making, start with the Bittman recipe. Note, unfortunately, that the NYTimes has still not updated the recipe on that page and you have to look at the first comment or watch the video to get the right one.

My version is a bread that rises overnight, then has a very easy knead, then bakes in a dutch oven.

You will need:

  1. ¼ tsp of instant yeast (¼ tsp) Active Dry will work jut add 1/8 a tsp more
  2. A dutch oven of some sort – I use this Lodge 3 Qt Cast Iron Combo (that can take heat to 450)
  3. 15 oz All-purpose, white or bread flour 
  4. 1 tbs Vinegar of any kind (I use white vinegar as default)
  5. 3 to 4 oz Beer (any kind)
  6. 6 to 7 oz. Water (tap is fine)
  7. 1 to 1.5 tsp of salt (table, sea or kosher all work)
  8. 1 or 2 Tbs of Miso (optional but so good – I prefer brown or red, but any kind will do)
  9. Some oil, preferably of the sprayable type
  10. A mixing bowl, preferably two
  11. A plastic bag big enough to go over the mixing bowl

Nice to have:

  1. Parchment paper
  2. Digital scale (very helpful)
  3. Bread whisk
  4. Big silicone mat
  5. Bread scraper or equivalent tool 
  6. Bread scoring tool or a straight razor
  7. Oven gloves

So first thing to do is measure out 15 ounces of flour (about 3 cups, but far better to weigh it) into a large bowl. Then add 1 ½ teaspoons of salt (1 tsp if using Miso). Give a quick stir. Then add ¼ tsp of active yeast.

Now do the wet ingredients: 

If using Miso:, put a 1 or more Tbs of Miso into 6 ozs of water. I do this in a 12 oz Ball jar, since it has markings on it. Microwave this for 1 minute or so. This gets it hot and lets you whisk the miso until it dissolves. You can use whatever implement works best to break up the miso, but be careful if using an immersion blender – this water is warm.

Then add 4 oz of beer, preferably cold. You want the liquid to be lukewarm to warm when adding to the flour so not to kill the yeast.. Now stir in one Tbs of vinegar to the liquid.

Now pour the liquid into the flour. I tend to mix in about 80% of the liquid in the first pour. If you have a bread hook use that to mix up the water and flour. If not, just use your hands or some other tool. Then add the rest of the liquid and get all the flour incorporated. If need be add another oz or two of beer or water. You’ll have a shaggy mixture, which is fine. No need to shape into a ball, the yeast will do that for you.

Now put the bowl into a plastic bag and set it aside somewhere moderate temperature for ~ 12 hours. This is very loose. I’ve done 8 hours and 16 hours and it works out fine.

I tend to make this later in the evening then bake in the a.m.

The next morning, take the bread bowl out of the bag. It should have risen about 1.5 to 2x times its original size and have yeasty aeration holes on top. 

Now, do the second rise and bake. This is easy to do but requires a couple of hours. You’ll knead the dough, let it rest for 2 hours and preheat the oven.

First, if you can, get another bowl and line it with parchment paper. Spray a little oil on it. This is where the dough goes next. You can use the same bowl but it adds a small bit of mess unless you clean the bowl between uses.

Flour a surface (I prefer a large silicon mat) and get the dough out of the bowl. A bread scraper helps get the dough out, but you can also use a spatula or this great, cheap silicon tool. Sprinkle a little flour on the top so the dough isn’t sticky to the touch. 

Now you knead the bread 8 to 15 times, dusting with flour if you run into wet dough. This is pretty light kneading and you can even do it without your hands using the bread scraper or silicon tool

Form this into a ball and if there’s a seam put it on the bottom. Now put this on the parchment paper in the bowl and put it back in the bag.

You will bake this in 2 hours. 

Set a timer for 90 minutes: 

This is when you preheat the oven with the Dutch oven in it. 

Preheat the oven at 475 or 500 degrees (experiment later).

Let it preheat for 30 minutes.

Take a knife and score your bread. 4 short lines with a serrated knife is good (I now use a straight-edge razor).  This lets the bread expand when baking. It’s not a big deal if you forget and you can do whatever pattern you like. If you want the bread to look fancy, sprinkle a little flour over the top.

Carefully take out the big part of the dutch oven. If you don’t have parchment paper, sprinkle some corn meal on the bottom to prevent sticking. Now put the top on, put in the middle of the oven and reduce the temperature to 450 or 425.

With my oven, I like to put a baking sheet on the rack below the rack the bread is on. This prevents over-browning. This might not be necessary in your oven.

Bake for 30 minutes covered. This uses steam to get a crust on the bread.

Then open the oven, take the lid off the dutch oven. You can leave it in the oven or put it on the stove. Careful this is VERY hot.

Bake another 15 to 18 minutes.

Take the dutch oven out, using oven mitts or gloves. Use the mitts to take out the bread (via the parchment paper) and put it on a cooling rack or oven burner for 30 minutes (if you can wait that long).

Tada you have bread.

This bread is very forgiving and very versatile. You can throw in hard and/or soft cheeses (add more than you think), add garlic, nuts or spices, substitute whey for the water/beer, experiment with different kinds of beer, vinegar, etc. I’ve experimented with adding extras when first mixing the dough and when kneading and haven’t found a big difference other than better distribution when added in the first stage.

You can also use this same basic slow rise technique to make a decent sandwich loaf using a different pan. See the variation as the second recipe here.

Notes on ingredients/equipment:

Buy a 16 oz bag of active yeast: put it in a Mason or Bell Jar in the freezer. It will stay good for *years*. This is what I use and love: Saf Instant Red

King Arthur Bread flour is my favorite, but any flour will do. If you want to use whole wheat, use it as only part of the flour, add more liquid and expect a much denser bread.

I quite like using a cast-iron dutch oven and now have two so I can bake two loaves at once. The 3-quart size is just perfect for this. They do get heavy and you may need to move them with two hands so I *strongly* recommend oven mitts for both hands. These are what I use (a fine Christmas gift from my partner).

I find it easier to make 2 loaves at a time (even when I had only one dutch oven) as the bread freezes nicely (put it inside 2 sealed plastic bags). It’s not too much more work to make 2 or more at once than it is to make one loaf.

Chromecast, the Wonder Device, Ties Together the Little A/V System That Can

marquee-productMy dog is named Little. My living room is little. And my audio-video set-up is little.

But my dog and my A/V setup are awesome.

The awesomeness of the latter is in no small part thanks to a really nice boost from Google Chromecast. For those unfamiliar, it’s a nifty little device that plugs into your TV or monitor and allows you to stream movies and music that you control from your iPad, Chrome browser or Android-powered device.

This is a subjective Chromecast review, based on how I watch and listen to stuff. If you’ve already got a Roku or Boxee, you probably don’t need this — thought it might still be fun for traveling. I also managed to buy one of the $35 devices while Google was offering 3 months of Netflix, which I already subscribe to, so it cost me something like $20 shipped. I bought it from Google, which came with a shipping fee, but you can buy it through Amazon and get free Prime shipping.

My home A/V system is simple. I have a great little Asus 23″ LED widescreen monitor, a $25 T-class amp, a power supply for the amp, and a set of older Mission bookshelf speakers. If I were to set it up today, I’d probably go with this sub $200 Samsung TV (which would probably double OK as a monitor) and these $50 bookshelf speakers.

41n04jEFZEL (1)Previously to watch movies, I’d just hook my laptop up to the monitor via HDMI cable and using a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, I’d send the audio to the amp. For music, I’d attach a little Android something (either my phone or a Nexus 7) to the same 3.5mm cable.

Now the setup is a bit different. I plugged the Chromecast into the HDMI port on the back of the monitor and then ran a USB power cable for the Chromecast to the power strip. (If your monitor/TV has a more advanced HDMI port, it can power Chromecast or if your monitor/TV has powered USB ports, you can run a short cable from the dongle to the USB port to get power. My monitor had neither.)

I left the 3.5mm cable dangling from the amp, and now run a 3.5mm to RCA cable from the audio out on the monitor to the RCA in jacks on the amp. (That way I can send audio either from Chromecast or from any other source that has a 3.5mm headphone plug.)

With Chromecast, I can now select a Netflix film from my phone, and quickly throw it to the Chromecast. Chromecast takes over the job of streaming. You can then use your phone to control the playback and volume, and do whatever you like on the phone otherwise.

You can do the same with YouTube and Google Music, which makes for a nice working environment. The monitor and amp sit on the other side of the room, and I can pause, lower the volume or change tracks right from my phone. The set-up for Chromecast-enabled apps is very nice – your router isn’t streaming music to your phone which then sends it Chromecast. Instead, your phone tells Chromecast to do the streaming and your phone just acts like a remote control.

That works differently for Chrome browser tabs, which you can also throw to Chromecast. This works fine for most things, but it’s still in beta and highly dependent on your WiFi strength (there’s two hops going on).

Amazon videos look awful and the sound is out of sync — but perhaps Amazon will finally come up with an Android app for its video and make it work with Chromecast. While you can make Chrome open a pretty amazing range of video files, so far getting them to play nicely via Chromecast hasn’t happened.

But throwing a Vine or a webpage or a map or a YouTube video from an open Chrome browser tab is pretty simple once you install the extension on your laptop or desktop browser (so long as everything’s on the same WiFi connection). So far this doesn’t extend to Chrome on Android.

The sound for movies is quite good and will get more than plenty loud. The picture quality is great, but in my case, the WiFi doesn’t have to go far — the router is just a few feet from the Chromecast.

Music from Google Play (where you can upload 20GB of music for free) sounds very good as well, but it’d be nice to have Rdio, Spotify and Pandora support.

The two biggest drawbacks of my setup is that the monitor has to be on and that I still have to physically hookup my laptop to stream DVD rips. There’s also a very, very slight hiss from the monitor which you can hear if the volume is very high, but the source is quiet.

Don’t get me wrong – the sound is still impressively clear and there’s almost no way you’d ever notice this during a movie. you don’t get big bass from this system, but you do get incredible clarity and ambience for not much money.

Seriously, connect a T-class amp with a good power supply and bookshelf speakers and put on Bohemian Rhapsody and you’ll see how it handles layers of sound, quiet passages, vocals and a wall of sound.

So for now when I really want to listen to music intently where I might notice that little hum, I connect the music directly to the 3.5mm cable.

But with Chromecast, I find have music on much more often as I can quickly control it from my phone. The only annoying thing there is that Google Play doesn’t recognize long clicks on the volume rockers as next and previous track messages, so you do have to turn on the screen to adjust tracks.

But that’s just nitpicking. Chromecast takes a very solid and astoundingly inexpensive A/V setup and pulls it all together — and the setup of Chromecast is incredibly easy.

So take a $150 monitor/TV, $50 set of speakers, $50 amp/power supply combo, and toss in the $35 Chromecast and $15 worth of cables and for $300 you’ll have a great sounding and looking audio/video system for a small to medium-size room that you can control from your phone or tablet.

That’s just simply incredible. And as more services add Chromecast support, it’s only going to get better.



Leaving Wired to Spend More Time with Startup Contextly

Ten years of writing and editing at Wired, covering everything from the NSA to Y Combinator, has taught me many things: that privacy and transparency matter, that journalism is hard and fascinating, and that, while the future of news and publishing is the Web, the tools for online journalism remain frustrating.

Writers must move faster than ever and are now often their own editors, photo desk and publicists — though the tools they use are too often kludgy and inadequate.

That’s why today is my last day as an editor at Wired; and why I’m leaving to run my start-up, Contextly, full-time.

Readers crave context in news, even as a reporter’s job of putting the day’s story (and more often stories) into a larger picture is hard to do when speed is essential and the news cycle never stops. But writers – good ones — know that the day’s work is just part of a long-term story that they and their co-workers have been telling for years.

There is deep institutional knowledge stuck in writers’ heads — for instance, knowing that today’s story about Twitter competitor App.net has deep resonance in earlier, but still relevant, stories about the open-source challenge to Facebook, Diaspora. But that’s not something algorithms or tags are good at surfacing.

And what about the readers that come to your older posts via search? How will they know that you’ve written more recent pieces on related content?

In my early days at Wired, we tried to deal with this by hand-crafting related links using HTML and a text file that we’d copy and paste into our stories. That model was, to put it in kind terms, inefficient and non-dynamic.

From that frustration and others, came Contextly. We’ve built an editorial solution to this problem that marries editorial control with serendipity. Our related links widget has been running on a number of sites, including across all of Wired.com, in our stealth beta for months. We’re not at liberty to say how much we’ve increased page-views and time-on-site for Wired, but it’s been *interesting* and we’re very happy with our start.

Contextly Related LinksRelated links chosen by a Wired Science writer that point readers to the best and most relevant earlier coverage of similar topics.

It’s an exciting time for online journalism, with a wide range of innovation, and there’s still so much that’s yet unexplored — even basic things.

For instance, adding links in the body of stories to previous work and to other sites around the web benefits readers. Links are what makes the Web a web and they even help with SEO. But adding links is a mind-numbing drudgery of tab switching, searching and cutting-and-pasting – even just to link to your site’s previous stories.

So Contextly comes with a tool that makes adding links of all stripes simpler and faster than ever.

We’ve also made analytics tools that produce reports are readable, designed for publishers and writers. We send out daily, weekly and monthly reports that sites love, and we’ve only just gotten started with building data tools designed for the needs of publishers and writers — not e-commerce sites.

There are other related links widgets out there, but none have been designed by a journalist for journalists. Contextly combines ease-of-use and dynamism and serendipity, while making sure that editorial control is not lost.

Contextly "You Might Like" LinksAlgorithmically chosen links to other great content on Wired – for when readers are in the mood to explore widely, not deeply.

We’re also building tools that help companies with blogs to present to their readers non-annoying offers to join an e-mail list, buy a conference ticket or sign-up to join a beta or read a white paper.

With invaluable testing help from sites like Wired, BoingBoing, Cult of Mac and others, we’ve had a great stealthy beta, and we’re ready now to expand it by opening up our beta invite sign-up to the world.

We’re proud of what we’ve already built and hope that the tools are a solution to challenges that many sites are facing.

Those who self-host WordPress can install the plugin in minutes, simply by searching for “Contextly Related Links” in the Plugins section of WordPress. We don’t strain your database and are nimble on your site. Those on other platforms can drop us a note and we’ll talk with you about our API and how we can work with you to get Contextly working on your CMS.

That said, this is just a beginning. Our roadmap is long and exciting – filled with big data challenges, tools that make publications and writers’ workflows simpler, and tools that help sites learn about their readership and try things they’ve never done before.

We’re called Contextly because we believe context is everything and that current CMSes largely treat each new story or post as if it has no connection to what came before it. We have an expansive conception of what context means and believe new tools can make news better for readers, more fun to publish as journalists and more profitable for publishers, big and small.
Leaving Wired was a tough decision, especially now.

Wired has published some amazing work over the last year, including Mat Honan’s gripping story of his epic hack, Kim Zetter’s piece on the recruiting e-mail that unraveled a massive phishing hole, Wired Enterprise’s work that makes data centers and servers gripping to read about, Spencer Ackerman’s award-winning stories on the FBI’s anti-Muslim training courses, Wired Science’s outstanding coverage of the Mars Curiousity landing, and Playbook’s wickedly fun series on the physics of Olympics sports.

Time also recently named the section I edited at Wired, Threat Level, one of the top 25 blogs of 2012, thanks, in no small part, to work like David Kravets’ must-follow legal reporting and Quinn Norton’s deep dive into the world Anonymous.

It’s not easy walking away from such co-workers, and I’ve only been able to do so thanks to the support of Wired.com’s Editor in Chief Evan Hansen.

But I’m taking with me the commitment to storytelling and journalism that I learned at Wired. It lives at the heart of Contextly, which will support great sites around the Web, helping them get great content to readers who want it.

We’d love to have you join us on the adventure and work with us to build tools that make news and online publishing better.

Founders and Funders: Stop Screwing Users on Privacy

Michael Arrington comes to the defense Sunday of one of his Crunchfund portfolio companies, Path, arguing that the New York Times‘s Nick Bilton is just piling on after Path “showed its belly” by apologizing for secretly copying and storing its users’ contacts in a company database.

But Arrington’s just wrong – it’s not piling on – and just because Path apologized, that doesn’t mean that it or the industry should get a free pass.

Bilton’s main point is spot-on: Path CEO Dave Morin, a Facebook veteran, should have known and did know that secretly copying users’ contact information was wrong and that his behavior is becoming all too familiar in the Valley.

Set aside Morin’s tenure at Facebook. Simply look at this exchange with Gawker in regards to the same issue with the first version of Path – where Morin states “Path does not retain or store any of your information in any way.”

Knowing that was an issue, Morin went on to launch a future version that secretly plundered the contacts from users’ iPhones. Path didn’t  even bother to use hashes to protect the data and stored it on their own servers in plain text. Path isn’t even using encryption to keep contact data on their servers, instead saying it’s protected with an “industry standard firewall,” which is just laughable to anyone who has followed the exploits of Anonymous over the last year.

But Arrington says it’s time to let up on Path because the company apologized and deleted the data. After all, Morin thought he could solve the problem by saying Path was being “proactive” in building a consent mechanism into upcoming versions of the app.

Bullshit. It’s time to stop letting start-ups and big companies (I’m looking at you, Google and Facebook) pretend they don’t understand basic fair information practices and then just “apologize” later after backing slightly off a huge insult to user privacy.

For start-ups that don’t know – the rules are really simple and basically boil down to “Don’t be a secretive asshole.”

Fair Information Practices have been around since the early 1970s. There are five of them. Notice, Choice, Access, Security and Redress. Basically that means you tell people why and how you collect data and what you do with it. You give them a choice about whether to provide it and a way for them to see/correct/delete. You use real security (e.g. in Path’s case, if they didn’t use MD5 hashes instead of collecting the plain-text, then the database should be encrypted and access to the database should be extremely limited inside Path). The company should also say what it plans to do if it violates that agreement.

This stuff is extremely basic, and Bilton is right to continue criticizing Path after it showed its belly. Path (and other apps) made the decision to blatantly abuse their users’ trust, *exactly* because it thinks it can be like Facebook and just ride out the storm after an apology, if they got caught.

As Bilton writes:

<blockquote>It seems the management philosophy of “ask for forgiveness, not permission” is becoming the “industry best practice.” And based on the response to Mr. Morin, tech executives are even lauded for it.</blockquote>

Instead of lecturing Bilton on being mean to Path, Arrington ought to be wondering why the hell he invested in a company that has absolutely no respect for its users, their privacy and basic standards of decency. Instead, he penned a column about how the net can become a “mob,” and what a shame it is that you can’t reason with a mob.

While I’ve always appreciated Arrington’s passion for start-ups, I find it very disturbing that he considers the users who raised their voices after being betrayed by Path on its march to the big bucks a “mob”. They aren’t a mob – and while they may not get every detail right, the people we call “users” are usually smart enough to know when they are being screwed.

And they got screwed, intentionally by a company you invested in, Michael. That should worry you more than a column from Nick Bilton.

Teens See Facebook Differently

Parents often think their teenage children will post anything to the web, and that it’s fair game for them to comment on their kid’s status messages. But teens have a different idea of what kind of public space Facebook actually is, according to new research from Microsoft.

In restaurants, people often dine close enough to overhear every conversation, but they pretend to not listen in. This act of ‘giving someone space’ is a gift of privacy. Goffman calls it ‘civil inattention.’

Civil inattention is a social norm, driven by an ideal of respect. Staring at someone or openly listening in on their conversations is a violation of social norms which makes people uneasy because it is experienced as an invasion of privacy. For teens, the same holds true online; they expect people – most notably, those who hold power over them – to respect their space.

That’s the one of the conclusions from Microsoft researchers Danah Boyd and Alice Marwick in their new paper (.pdf).

Thanks BoingBoing!

I love Creative Commons-licensed content. At Wired.com, we rely heavily on photographers who license their photos on Flickr for re-use with credit.

And now, I’m launching a data-mining project at the site world-facts.net using 10 years of posts from BoingBoing.net, which they license under a liberal Creative Commons license, allowing re-publishing for non-commercial ventures.

Thank you Boing Boing for trusting the community and trusting the world enough to know that you’ll still be successful even if you don’t control every use of your work. And I’d also like to thank Rob Beschizza, a BoingBoinger not pictured above, who helped me figure out how to make the import work out.

Photo: BoingBoing gathered in a rare group appearance at the ETech conference in 2008 Credit: Vissago

Bloomberg Game Changers Tackles Twitter

A month or so ago, the crew that makes the Bloomberg Game Changers documentaries about entrepreneurs who have transformed our lives stopped by the Wired offices to ask me a bit about Twitter.

The 25-minute show is now online and being show on Bloomberg TV. Check out the trailer below, and you can watch the full episode online. Also featured are Om Malik, Tim O’Reilly, Jack Dorsey and Mike Maples. Continue reading

Facebook, Faux Dating and Fox

A few weeks ago, I wrote a story for Wired.com about how two performance artists had scraped 1 million Facebook profiles to create a fake dating site — the story took off quickly, as did the cease-and-desist letters from Facebook’s lawyers.

The site — Lovely-Faces.com — is shut down now, but the duo explains their view of their success (.pdf). You can also see me speaking with Fox News 11 about the project (note the great backdrop from the Wired.com conference room).

Facebook Profiles Scraped for Fake Dating Site: MyFoxLA.com