Wednesday, December 11, 2013

There is no need to knead…

So says Jim Lahey, author, owner and head baker of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City.

Back in 2006, Mark Bittman of the New York Times interviewed Jim Lahey which morphed in to a video short for broadcast on the New York Times website, which in turn, created a bread baking movement that can only be described as “viral”.  Jim’s method is perfect for those bread bakers at home who can be described as “lazy”.  Since that perfectly described yours truly, I figured “why not”?

What’s the secret you ask?  In a word:  time.  Jim Lahey’s method involves mixing 4 ingredients together (recipe below, but flour, yeast, salt and water) by hand, or with a spoon, for 30 seconds, and letting it sit for at least twelve hours, or longer.  His theory is that this long, slow rise allows the yeast and flour to do their voodoo and allows the gluten to form naturally.  After rising, because you cook it inside a Dutch oven, which acts as a miniature steam oven, you get a spectacular crust and more spectacular crumb. Having made the recipe (I have his book, “My Bread”, but you can learn how to do it from the 6 minute video here or below), I can tell you that it works to perfection, turning out a beautiful artisan style loaf.   Or, if you don’t have the book, and you don’t like Mark Bittman, you can watch one of the thousands of videos from people like you and me who have done this method, or other closely related iterations.

The basic method (from the Sullivan Street Bakery website):


3 cups flour
1½ cups water
¼ teaspoon yeast
1¼ teaspoon salt
olive oil (for coating)
extra flour or cornmeal

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add water and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lightly coat the inside of a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65-72°F).
Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface. Next, shape the dough into ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450-500°F. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.”

I say, take it out, put on a cooling rack, and enjoy after cooling, if you can wait that long.  Make sure to have some butter handy, for a schmear, because nothing tastes better than a hot piece of bread with melted butter soaked into it.  I assure you, if I can do it, so can you…take a look at this loaf!

Next up…no knead challah. 

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