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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.

MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #38 of 668)

Thanks for that tip - I was not aware you couldn't use the LC knob at that temperature, and would have blindly put it in.  I'll go take that off right now and start preheating the oven.


I just put mine on a towel sprinkled with cornmeal, and covered with a plastic cake cover, since I couldn't find another towel.  I really must unpack some day.  I will post as soon as we finish this...it might be supper, if it's good, 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!
Gretchen's picture

(post #64104, reply #37 of 668)

You added a little more flour? I think that is what it said. I just started mine. Jeez, it only has 4 ingredients and we are up to 34 posts about it!!!

Gretchen

Gretchen
MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #39 of 668)

Of course not...you don't think MadMom actually reads and comprehends recipes, do you?  Actually, I put cornbread on the towel and dumped the dough out and folded it.  Did not add flour, which I probably should have.  Oh well, we'll see what happens.  I think this is a holdover from the old days, when you weren't supposed to add flour after you kneaded bread.  Of course, this one wasn't kneaded.  What was I thinking?  Well, can't say that the price of the ingredients will break me if I have to toss it, 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!

dilly's picture

(post #64104, reply #292 of 668)

In the video, he said the oven temp should be 500 - 515, the recipe says 450.  Which should it be? Also, why does everyone hate Bittman?

schnitzel's picture

(post #64104, reply #295 of 668)

The temp is your choice.


Also, why does everyone hate Bittman?


I don't hate him.


MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #296 of 668)

Why does everyone hate Bittman?  Probably for much the same reason they hate Nick Malgieri.  They're both pompous and a bit too full of themselves.  After all, Julia Child, who could cook circles around both of them, never wrote a cookbook entitled "How to Cook Everything."


Edited to say that "hate" is probably way too strong a word.  I just don't care for either of them.




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 11/15/2006 4:09 pm ET by MadMom

pamilyn's picture

(post #64104, reply #300 of 668)

MM, I have to giggle. Almost evertime I look for a recipe in How to cook Everything ...It's not in there. I should write down what Isn't there and keep it in the book. As for Nick, I made some absolutely awsome Rye bread from his book on Sunday. Yummy. I have never seen him so have no opinion. Pamilyn

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

Jean's picture

(post #64104, reply #303 of 668)

The rye bread-- from How to Bake? Which one did you try?


The giant hives have subsided and I'm emerging from my Benadryl haze/daze not much the worse for wear, but hoping and praying the stents will stay open without the aid of the Plavix and Ticlid that I seem to be so allergic to. Time will tell.




"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." Bertrand Russell

 
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/
help to provide free mammograms for women in need
mer's picture

(post #64104, reply #312 of 668)

Jean,


I'm sorry.  We have all been leading you on.  This bread is complicated to make and it tastes really bad.  I made more last night and had to throw it out.   yuck.  Don't even waste your time.  The recipe takes 24 hours anyway.  Who ever heard of that??  DH hates the stuff and he isn't usually picky.


-MER


 


(Marcia, was that better?)


 

Marcia's picture

(post #64104, reply #318 of 668)

Perfect, Mer. I almost believed you. :)

MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #304 of 668)

I took a class from Nick.  He is even more pompous in person than he comes across in print.  Someone had the nerve to ask him how he came up with all his recipes, and he pointed to his forehead.  Even Julia Child (here I go again) said there was no such thing as an original recipe. 



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!

Risottogirl's picture

(post #64104, reply #305 of 668)

After all, Julia Child, who could cook circles around both of them, never wrote a cookbook entitled "How to Cook Everything."


Then after Julia passed, in an interview with Melissa Block on NPR, he totally dissed her in his arrogant pompous manner. Boy, did NPR get some mail on THAT one...


He is a twit.


Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor


Bobby Flay

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor - Bobby Flay

Lee's picture

(post #64104, reply #314 of 668)

I've watched a few of his tv shows, and his condescending attitude toward the talented and innovative chefs he has on is really insulting.  Anyone, myself included, who has a few years experience in the kitchen can cook simple, tasty food, which is really all that he does.  His snide comments about the complex and sophisticated dishes his guest-chefs create turn me off. 

wisekaren's picture

(post #64104, reply #16 of 668)

Thanks -- I didn't go to the site, so I didn't see the pics!
Karen

schnitzel's picture

(post #64104, reply #17 of 668)

There's a video, too.


Lee's picture

(post #64104, reply #40 of 668)

Thanks so much for posting the link.  He folded the dough as you would for puff pastry, different from what I envisioned when I read the directions to "fold it over on itself once or twice."  The other videos are fun to watch, especially the ones from El Bulli.  The sandwich from Barcelona has me salivating!

pamilyn's picture

(post #64104, reply #78 of 668)

Yes, I agree. That is not the way I pictured  it to be folded either. Glad I watched the video. Looking forward to reading the results here. Pamilyn

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

Gretchen's picture

(post #64104, reply #19 of 668)

I didn't either. We get the Times.

Gretchen

Gretchen
wisekaren's picture

(post #64104, reply #20 of 668)

I get it only on Sundays....
Karen

Gretchen's picture

(post #64104, reply #26 of 668)

We are inundated. We used to get it only M-F but they called and gave us 3 months free for the week-end too. That will take us through Christmas, which I thought would be nice and I'll cancel that.


Oh, for the days in the City when I spent late Saturday night and all day Sunday reading the Sunday Times!!


Gretchen
Gretchen
CulinaryArtist's picture

(post #64104, reply #67 of 668)

When we lived in Manhattan we'd stand at the corner newsstand on Saturday nights waiting for the paper, then go home and read it until we fell asleep and swap sections in the morning over breakfast. Then Children came along......

Jimbo the TRAVELING CULINARY ARTIST


http//:www.travelingculinaryartist.com

Jimbo the TRAVELING CULINARY ARTIST

http//:www.travelingculinaryartist.com

SallyBR1's picture

(post #64104, reply #379 of 668)

Ok, it is done!

I had a ton of trouble last night, and had to postpone the baking until today - I was SURE it was going to be a disaster.... After 12 hours at room temp, I put it in the fridge overnight, and continued this morning

allowed it to come to room temp, did the first folding - then formed the round shape, and proceeded with the recipe as normal

used a clay pot - was very nervous to "plop" the dough in, but decided not to care too much about the shape

after 30 minutes I opened the lid with my heart beating fast - it looked great!

Now it is cooling on a rack - it looks so good I cannot believe it came out of my oven! I will try it later today and report back.

 


 


"Sally who? Sally in the corner"
(Amy, November 2006)

Jean's picture

(post #64104, reply #380 of 668)

For future reference, will this work in the largest size Pyrex mixing bowl? I do have a lid that fits it.



"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." Bertrand Russell

 
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/


Edited 11/18/2006 1:51 pm ET by Jean

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/
help to provide free mammograms for women in need
Gretchen's picture

(post #64104, reply #381 of 668)

To bake or to make?  If to bake, I kind of think the bread needs to be flat on the bottom--or maybe I'm not understanding.  I also have no idea how large it is>

Gretchen


Edited 11/18/2006 2:01 pm ET by Gretchen

Gretchen
SallyBR1's picture

(post #64104, reply #382 of 668)

One word: AWESOME!!!!!!!

It is absolutely great - I don t know if the crust could be any better than it is, and I used the clay pot. Perfect size for the loaf.

I think someone should give a Nobel Prize for that guy - he very well deserves it. This method allows ANYONE to have excellent bread every weekend, which I intend to do.

I will be trying all sorts of variations - herbs, different flours

anybody DID not try it yet? :-)

 


 


"Sally who? Sally in the corner"
(Amy, November 2006)

MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #383 of 668)

I still haven't found the multigrain flour, but someone said the Evil Empire might have it, and for that, I might force myself to go in there.  Probably won't have it, but I'll wear my Groucho Marx disguise in case I run into anyone I know.  I'm mixing up some now with herbs for my dressing.  Should be good!



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!

doyenne's picture

(post #64104, reply #406 of 668)

King Arthur has a 10 grain flour.


http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/detail.jsp?select=C74&byCategory=C90&id=3603


Where is Monica Lewinski when you need her?

Where is Monica Lewinski when you need her?

MadMom's picture

(post #64104, reply #409 of 668)

Well, I was all set to order some, and got a message that your session had expired.  I tried looking under flour, but couldn't find it.  Want to guide me?



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!

doyenne's picture

(post #64104, reply #410 of 668)

See if this works.


http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/detail.jsp?select=C74&byCategory=C90&id=3603


If it doesn't just Google for King Arthur flour catalog, click on bread, click on flours and grains in the sub menu.


http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/landing.jsp?go=Home


Where is Monica Lewinski when you need her?

Where is Monica Lewinski when you need her?

dilly's picture

(post #64104, reply #386 of 668)

If you wanted to add herbs? olives? cheeses?  at which stage would you add them?  Would it screw up the chemistry?