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New easy bread

Heather's picture

New easy bread (post #64104)

in

This article and recipe were in this morning's NY Times. Has anyone tried a method like this? I'm going to try it very soon.

The Minimalist
The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work
By MARK BITTMAN

INNOVATIONS in bread baking are rare. In fact, the 6,000-year-old process hasn’t changed much since Pasteur made the commercial production of standardized yeast possible in 1859. The introduction of the gas stove, the electric mixer and the food processor made the process easier, faster and more reliable.

I’m not counting sliced bread as a positive step, but Jim Lahey’s method may be the greatest thing since.

This story began in late September when Mr. Lahey sent an e-mail message inviting me to attend a session of a class he was giving at Sullivan Street Bakery, which he owns, at 533 West 47th Street in Manhattan. His wording was irresistible: “I’ll be teaching a truly minimalist breadmaking technique that allows people to make excellent bread at home with very little effort. The method is surprisingly simple — I think a 4-year-old could master it — and the results are fantastic.”

I set up a time to visit Mr. Lahey, and we baked together, and the only bad news is that you cannot put your 4-year-old to work producing bread for you. The method is complicated enough that you would need a very ambitious 8-year-old. But the results are indeed fantastic.

Mr. Lahey’s method is striking on several levels. It requires no kneading. (Repeat: none.) It uses no special ingredients, equipment or techniques. It takes very little effort.

It accomplishes all of this by combining a number of unusual though not unheard of features. Most notable is that you’ll need about 24 hours to create a loaf; time does almost all the work. Mr. Lahey’s dough uses very little yeast, a quarter teaspoon (you almost never see a recipe with less than a teaspoon), and he compensates for this tiny amount by fermenting the dough very slowly. He mixes a very wet dough, about 42 percent water, which is at the extreme high end of the range that professional bakers use to create crisp crust and large, well-structured crumb, both of which are evident in this loaf.

The dough is so sticky that you couldn’t knead it if you wanted to. It is mixed in less than a minute, then sits in a covered bowl, undisturbed, for about 18 hours. It is then turned out onto a board for 15 minutes, quickly shaped (I mean in 30 seconds), and allowed to rise again, for a couple of hours. Then it’s baked. That’s it.

I asked Harold McGee, who is an amateur breadmaker and best known as the author of “On Food and Cooking” (Scribner, 2004), what he thought of this method. His response: “It makes sense. The long, slow rise does over hours what intensive kneading does in minutes: it brings the gluten molecules into side-by-side alignment to maximize their opportunity to bind to each other and produce a strong, elastic network. The wetness of the dough is an important piece of this because the gluten molecules are more mobile in a high proportion of water, and so can move into alignment easier and faster than if the dough were stiff.”

That’s as technical an explanation as I care to have, enough to validate what I already knew: Mr. Lahey’s method is creative and smart.

But until this point, it’s not revolutionary. Mr. McGee said he had been kneading less and less as the years have gone by, relying on time to do the work for him. Charles Van Over, author of the authoritative book on food-processor dough making, “The Best Bread Ever” (Broadway, 1997), long ago taught me to make a very wet dough (the food processor is great at this) and let it rise slowly. And, as Mr. Lahey himself notes, “The Egyptians mixed their batches of dough with a hoe.”

What makes Mr. Lahey’s process revolutionary is the resulting combination of great crumb, lightness, incredible flavor — long fermentation gives you that — and an enviable, crackling crust, the feature of bread that most frequently separates the amateurs from the pros. My bread has often had thick, hard crusts, not at all bad, but not the kind that shatter when you bite into them. Producing those has been a bane of the amateur for years, because it requires getting moisture onto the bread as the crust develops.

To get that kind of a crust, professionals use steam-injected ovens. At home I have tried brushing the dough with water (a hassle and ineffective); spraying it (almost as ineffective and requiring frequent attention); throwing ice cubes on the floor of the oven (not good for the oven, and not far from ineffective); and filling a pot with stones and preheating it, then pouring boiling water over the stones to create a wet sauna (quite effective but dangerous, physically challenging and space-consuming). I was discouraged from using La Cloche, a covered stoneware dish, by my long-standing disinclination to crowd my kitchen with inessential items that accomplish only one chore. I was discouraged from buying a $5,000 steam-injected oven by its price.

It turns out there’s no need for any of this. Mr. Lahey solves the problem by putting the dough in a preheated covered pot — a common one, a heavy one, but nothing fancy. For one loaf he used an old Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot; for another, a heavy ceramic pot. (I have used cast iron with great success.) By starting this very wet dough in a hot, covered pot, Mr. Lahey lets the crust develop in a moist, enclosed environment. The pot is in effect the oven, and that oven has plenty of steam in it. Once uncovered, a half-hour later, the crust has time to harden and brown, still in the pot, and the bread is done. (Fear not. The dough does not stick to the pot any more than it would to a preheated bread stone.)

The entire process is incredibly simple, and, in the three weeks I’ve been using it, absolutely reliable. Though professional bakers work with consistent flour, water, yeast and temperatures, and measure by weight, we amateurs have mostly inconsistent ingredients and measure by volume, which can make things unpredictable. Mr. Lahey thinks imprecision isn’t much of a handicap and, indeed, his method seems to iron out the wrinkles: “I encourage a somewhat careless approach,” he says, “and figure this may even be a disappointment to those who expect something more difficult. The proof is in the loaf.”

The loaf is incredible, a fine-bakery quality, European-style boule that is produced more easily than by any other technique I’ve used, and will blow your mind. (It may yet change the industry. Mr. Lahey is experimenting with using it on a large scale, but although it requires far less electricity than conventional baking, it takes a lot of space and time.) It is best made with bread flour, but all-purpose flour works fine. (I’ve played with whole-wheat and rye flours, too; the results are fantastic.)

You or your 8-year-old may hit this perfectly on the first try, or you may not. Judgment is involved; with practice you’ll get it right every time.

The baking itself is virtually foolproof, so the most important aspect is patience. Long, slow fermentation is critical. Mr. Lahey puts the time at 12 to 18 hours, but I have had much greater success at the longer time. If you are in a hurry, more yeast (three-eighths of a teaspoon) or a warmer room temperature may move things along, but really, once you’re waiting 12 hours why not wait 18? Similarly, Mr. Lahey’s second rising can take as little as an hour, but two hours, or even a little longer, works better.

Although even my “failed” loaves were as good as those from most bakeries, to make the loaf really sensational requires a bit of a commitment. But with just a little patience, you will be rewarded with the best no-work bread you have ever made. And that’s no small thing.

Heather's picture

(post #64104, reply #1 of 668)

Here's the recipe--

November 8, 2006 New York Times
Recipe: No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1 1/2 hours plus 14 to 20 hours' rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.


Edited 11/9/2006 11:58 am by Heather

MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #2 of 668)

Okay, cannot stand "how to cook everything bittman" but will definitely try this one, particularly since it's not his recipe, but someone else's.



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

courgette's picture

(post #64104, reply #3 of 668)

I'm going to make this tonight while I am getting supper ready. Sounds like just the ticket.


Mo

Gretchen's picture

(post #64104, reply #4 of 668)

I'm going to give it a try tomorrow. I read the whole article while waiting in car pool line and it made more "sense"--and the picture of him dumping the dough into the LC with cornmeal flying did too!  Could be interesting.


I have a cloche actually. All my LCs are ovals so we'll have a long loaf.


Gretchen
Gretchen
courgette's picture

(post #64104, reply #5 of 668)

I'll report back tomorrow. haven't actually started it yet-but I finished the bulb planting!


My LC is a big round one so we'll have a boule.


Mo

hsnow73's picture

(post #64104, reply #317 of 668)

Gretchen, do you use your cloche a lot?  I purchased one about 3 weeks ago and now wonder whether I should just return it and use my le creuset pots.

Gretchen's picture

(post #64104, reply #325 of 668)

I hadn't used it for years--I haven't been making that style bread much.  I have had it for 20+ years--a long ago gift when they were cheap(er)!  I think this is not the only bread you will make in it. It is fun to have.

Gretchen

Gretchen
hsnow73's picture

(post #64104, reply #338 of 668)

Thanks for your input.  I guess I'll keep the cloche, but I should stop buying more kitchen items and simply make do with what I already have.

chiffonade's picture

(post #64104, reply #126 of 668)

Okay, cannot stand "how to cook everything bittman."


Thanks.  I'm glad I'm not going to be the only one who feels this way.   He's the only person in the NYT Wednesday food section I completely ignore.


"You can ask for cheese on your linguini with clam sauce...Just don't do it in front of me."  Mario Batali

*You're a REAL person, eat REAL food."

Chiffonade

thedessertlady's picture

(post #64104, reply #570 of 668)

Why do you hate Bittman's book. I love it as a reference cook book. I think his recipes work out well.

MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #571 of 668)

It's not that I hate Bittman's book.  It's more that I think Bittman is an arrogant jerk.  What can I say?  He is surely a much better cook than I, but I suppose I am turned off by the title and his attitude.



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

Heather's picture

(post #64104, reply #572 of 668)

I notice there is a new iteration of his book just out--"How to Cook Everything: 55 Recipe Cards". So I guess that is actually "How I Can Make More Money Telling You How to Cook Only 55 Things"

MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #573 of 668)

Or, maybe, in his mind, if you can cook 55 things, you can cook everything, LOL.



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

wonka's picture

(post #64104, reply #574 of 668)

I'm glad you asked that question. I've been wondering myself why he is so hated. I know nothing about the man so I was baffled. I use his book as a reference book as well (I bought it for a dollar).

Gretchen's picture

(post #64104, reply #575 of 668)

If it's worth a dollar--or 10--to you, then that is fine.  Use it in good health. Others have said they have gone to look how to cook "something" and it isn't in "Everything".


BUT we (the editorial we, meaning usn's here) all piffed at him for his dismissive attitude in an interview on NPR about Julia Child at the time of her death. He "supposed" that Julia "might" have had "something" to do with a cooking revolution.  AND in the MOST dismissive voice I could imagine.  It was completely infuriating. I wanted to reach into the radio and throttle him.


Gretchen


Edited 11/24/2006 9:20 pm ET by Gretchen

Gretchen
wonka's picture

(post #64104, reply #577 of 668)

I don't use it too much but knowing nothing about him I was curious. Thanks for the update.

thedessertlady's picture

(post #64104, reply #599 of 668)

Oh.... thanks for clarify where all the "hate" came from. I never saw that interview. It would have been annoying to watch. I've just found his recipes very easy to follow and 9.5 times out of 10 they turn out just how I was hoping.

MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #600 of 668)

Hate is a very strong word, and if I ever used it, I'm sorry.  I just don't care for the man, and therefore, try to avoid contributing to his fortune by buying his cookbooks.



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

thedessertlady's picture

(post #64104, reply #603 of 668)

Got it. How is your Christmas shopping/baking coming?

MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #605 of 668)

Got a couple more Christmas gifts today...slowly but surely whittling them down, LOL.  As far as Christmas baking goes, none of us (except the kids) need all the cookies and candy, but there are a few things I will have to do.  Peppermint bark for my DSIL, caramels (mostly for me, but everyone eats them), and another French Silk pie for DD.  Oh yes, and some of Tracy's hazelnut toffee, without the nuts.  That is sooooooo good.  Reminds me that I need to make a trip to Whole Foods to get some good chocolate, or maybe just save time and pick it up at my favorite local cooking school/gourmet shop/restaurant. 



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

thedessertlady's picture

(post #64104, reply #607 of 668)

What recipe to you use for "Silk Pie" it is not a common in the North West but I've always been interested in making one. I (and 2 others) made 65 dozen rumballs and I also made 7 dozen "Sugar Plums" love those.
Shopping is almost done.

MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #608 of 668)

This is my younger daughter's favorite pie:


French Silk Pie


9" pie shell
3/4 lb butter (if you use unsalted, add some salt, maybe 1/4 tsp), room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
3/4 tsp vanilla


Cream butter until light and fluffy.  Add sugar, beat again until completely combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating for several minutes after each egg is added.  Add melted chocolate, and beat for several minutes.  Add vanilla and beat for several minutes.  Pour into cooled baked pie shell and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to meld.  Top with whipped cream.


I think I actually got this recipe from someone on CT, and have reduced it by 1/4 because it made way too much for one pie.  (Ingredients above have been reduced so they fit in one pie.)




Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!


Edited 11/25/2006 9:12 pm ET by MadMom

Heather's picture

(post #64104, reply #609 of 668)

Tonight's was the best version of The Bread yet. I let it rise in my warming drawer--my kitchen just isn't warm enough for bread in the winter--so it was nice and puffy. I have been using my 3.5 qt LC but wanted to see if something closer to the 6-8 qt recommended container would be better. I didn't want to use my big LC because this bread has made my smaller one quite scuzzy. So I used a 12" cast iron skillet topped with a large stainless mixing bowl. That worked perfectly.

Gretchen's picture

(post #64104, reply #611 of 668)

Great idea for the oven. I had suggested earlier that I wondered if even a cookie sheet and an inverted bowl would work. The cast iron "bottom" is MUCH better, of course.

Gretchen

Gretchen
Heather's picture

(post #64104, reply #612 of 668)

I almost used a cookie sheet because then I could use an even bigger bowl, but I was afraid the bread might burn on the bottom or the sheet would warp badly.

wonka's picture

(post #64104, reply #610 of 668)

Here's a nice recipe that I asked for from The Cannery Seafood House here in Vancouver. It's very good.


SILK PIE


4 oz unsweetened chocolate


2 Tbsp brandy


1 Tbsp Frangelico


4 tsp Sanka instant coffee


1 cup unsalted butter, softened


1 cup sugar


2 eggs


1/2 cup each : ground almonds, ground hazelnuts (I know, you don't like nuts)


1/2 pint whipping cream


1 tsp icing sugar


   grated unsweetened chocolate


Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler, cool slightly. Stir in the brandy, Frangelico and Sanka, put in coffee last. If it gets all solid at this point I mix the coffee with 2 Tbsp of hot water. Cream together the butter and sugar in a blender or food processor. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add chocolate mixture and ground nuts. Whip the cream with the icing sugar. Fold into mixture. Pour the mixture in a 9 inch springform pan repared with Graham Cracker Crust (recipe to follow). Chill thoroughly. Garnish with grated chocolate and serve in thin slices.


GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST:


For fresher flavour, crush whole crackers instead of using pre-processed crumbs.


1/2 cup butter


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs


Melt the butter. Add the graham cracker crumbs and press into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake in a 325 F oven for 10 minutes.

dilly's picture

(post #64104, reply #620 of 668)

You don't cook the filling?  Aren't you worried about the eggs?

MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #623 of 668)

Absolutely not.  I think my chances of getting salmonella or whatever from raw eggs are probably somewhere in the vicinity of my chances of winning the lottery.  I also served spinach salad with fresh spinach...I am a daring child.



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

dilly's picture

(post #64104, reply #628 of 668)

I love frest spinach and am not afraid of it....  but raw eggs, I draw the line.

Syrah's picture

(post #64104, reply #650 of 668)

Really? Are they available pasturised? I have no issue with raw eggs at all. Tiramisu, caesar salad just wouldn't be the same!

(Back on topic), second batch is in the towel right now. I am hoping to avoid the floury patch I had in the first one.

"god, I'd love to turn this little blue world upside down", Tori Amos

"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be obtained." -Marie Curie