Anyone who knows me could predict that one look at Wednesday's NYTimes Food Section would land me in the kitchen. My obsession with finding a truly acceptable loaf that I can bake at home regularly and realistically overcame my reluctance to invest my time in another "Minimalist" recipe. Lots of people swear by Mark Bittman's cookbooks and recipes. He's obviously knowledgeable and interesting, and his recipes often sound very good -but I don't have a lot of luck with them, for reasons unclear to me. This recipe comes from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, who invented it, and who is clearly a very clever fellow.
This is just too good an idea to pass up.I would be willing to bet that this loaf winds up on a large number of food blogs very soon, it's just such a cool concept. And if it tastes half as good as it looks-all crusty, full of various sized holes, a picture of roundness and artisan-ness, it could be my Solution. Reader/friend Lynn D. has already made it, and advises that it is outstanding. Despite her inexplicable distaste for rootbeer, I have pretty much found that if she likes something, so do I.
The concept is a bread which is not kneaded at all, and develops it's texture, gluten and flavor via a ridiculously long rise. (12-18 hrs.- with the longer time preferred.) It is baked at a high temperature in a heavy, covered, roomy pot, which is preheated, and mimics the effect of a real bakers oven. This results in a thin, crisp crackling crust of a sort not often found in home baking. I am a little worried, as I do not have a round pan of the specified type which is big enough. I'm going with an ovoid one instead, and hoping it will be okay. You can find the recipe here. If you want to keep it, print it out, as Times articles disappear into the pay-for-it archives very quickly.
Anyhow, because I'm so excited, I thought I'd post as I go along. the first photo is the dough after 8 hours of the first rise. It took about 2 minutes to mix the flour, water, salt and tiny bit of yeast in the bowl, before I went to bed. You keep it covered for 12-18 hours. As I have the day off for Veteran's Day, I'm going whole hog on the time. More to follow.
Later: Okay then, the second photo is the bread just out of the oven, the third after slicing. This bread is ridiculously great. I'm floored. The crust is truly thin and crackling, the crumb is all wheaty tasty and just slightly chewy. And it is soooosimple.
I may be making this bread every weekend-like, forever? BTW, I like the ovoid shape- better for slicing, I think...big slices from the middle for sandwiches, smaller ones from the end for bruschetta-what's not to like?
Later still: I forgot to mention, until June pointed it out (see her link below), that this bread is startlingly light. I was surprised when I picked it up, how very light it was. Yet the lightness comes with no sacrifice of toothsomeness, if you know what I mean. Nothing insipid about it-it's got chew and is full of flavor.
Breads Around the World:
This recipe has captivated quite a few cooks, and fast. The NYTimes+internet, reached a target audience awfully quickly. It helps if the target audience is composed of zealots, I guess. You can find other bakers' beautiful no kneading bread (with some pictures) at:
Bake My Day (karen)
My Kitchen in Half Cups(tanna)
Bakkerswereld(the Dutch baking forum)
Jaffa Mud Pies (aja)
Chili und Ciabatta (petra)
Little Bouffe (Renz)
The Wednesday Chef (Luisa)
The Lovely Scones (Heather)
Notievanlien (Lien) in Dutch, but also in English, for the occasion
Inmolaraan (The chocolate lady)
Life's A Quilt
Did you make this bread too? Let me know and I will link to your blog or your Flickr photos.
Note: I have fallen sadly behind adding links here, what with trip to New York, visiting English cousin, Thanksgiving etc. I will eventually add everyone to this list, for your convenience, but in the meantime, you can check the comments for more links to descriptions and photos.
Additional update: 2/3/2008: I'm still making this bread- almost weekly; it suits my schedule and it is more than adequate-I like it better than my local bakery breads- not as much as the Mediterra breads, but I can't pick those up in my neighborhood, or downtown where I work. I have made a number of changes in my personal method. After reading an article in Cook's Illustrated I tried a bit of kneading before the last rise. It seems to make the bread a little less moist. Also, I do the last rise in a reed banneton which is very seasoned, and quite thickly floured.* It dumps out easily into the dutch oven I use (5 qt., rather than larger), and I slash the loaf before I set the lid on. This seems to result in a higher, rounder bread, which I like. Still the main virtues of this loaf are: easy, great crackling crust, big holed crumb and chewy. Main flaw- a little damp. The flavor can be varied with hands full of different grains as desired. It is a nice, pleasant taste, though it's not totally fascinating. C. I. added lager for flavor, but this does not appeal to me at all.
*I keep all my seasoned floured stuff- bannetons and linen cloths, etc. in a zippered plastic bag that a comforter came in. So far, this has deterred invasion by tiny livestock.