Friday, August 20, 2010

Great Bread Without A Howard County Angle

This isn't local.  This isn't timely.  But you need to make exceptions to the blog theme if you want great bread.

Last week, I tried Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe.  The recipe got famous from a 2006 New York Times article.  I found it in Lahey's cookbook My Bread at the Howard County library.

This is one of those ideas brilliant in its simplicity.  Lahey basically recommends a method where you prepare a loaf over two days.  Almost no effort, but you need to plan a little -- and have one large pot.

On Day 1, you mix flour, water, salt and a 1/4 tsp of yeast.  Then you let it sit for 18 hours in a covered bowl.  On Day 2, you roll the dough into a round loaf and let it sit for another two hours.  While it rises the second time, you heat your oven to 450 or 500 degrees.  You heat it with a pot -- like a Le Cruset -- inside so that the pot gets super hot.  Then you place the dough inside.  Bake 30 minutes covered and then 15-30 minutes more uncovered.

The loaf was the best bread that I have ever made.  A dark mahogany color.  A crisp crust with an interior dominated by holes.  And tasty!  The bread tasted better than any loaf that I ever baked.  It looked and tasted like restaurant bread.  Better than most restaurant bread, Mrs. HowChow says.  Bakery bread.  New York bakery bread.

Start with Lahey's basic bread recipe, which he posts on the Sullivan Street Bakery Web site.  But the book offers more.  He has a bunch of recipes.  He also describes the reasoning -- why he bakes in the pot, why you need to replace the plastic handle of a Le Cruset with a plug of aluminum foil, and why you have to let the bread cool completely.

Hot bread used to be my ultimate goal.  Lahey explained that the bread tastes better when you let it cool.  It also tastes better when you bake the Lahey way.  Give it a try.  Try the book.


Jen Blacker said...

There are so many variations on this, I love it! I found an Irish Cheddar version not too long ago. I halved the recipe and just made one big loaf without all the fancy twisting she did. Even my picky husband enjoyed it. Here is their site:

I ended up buying his book, I want to try more of his breads as soon as it cools down.

Artemis Cooks said...

I also have been experimenting with making artisan-style bread at home for several years. Love this method, and found the improvements on it described in an article in Cook's Illustrated (Jan-Feb 2008 issue) to improve an already great technique. Now I'm experimenting with additions to it, like seeds, different flours, etc. At last, free from high bread prices!!!

Unknown said...

I've been making this bread for about six months. Hope you try the steck bread. We gobbled up our first batch in 10 minutes.