Jim Lahey (left) originally studied sculpting at SUNY Stonybrook and the School of Visual Arts but was too free-spirited to stay long at either. Instead he headed off to Italy where he began working with bakers in northeastern and central Italy. When he came back to the States, he opened the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City in 1994; the bakery has since moved to further uptown to Manhattan’s west side but Lahey remains its proprietor. His new pizza restaurant, Co., opened in Manhattan in early 2009.
Rick Flaste served as the editor of the New York Times Dining Section at its inception, creating many of its acclaimed features. He has collaborated on numerous cookbooks and books, including the best-selling Pierre Franey’s Kitchen.
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Inspired by the ancient art of Italian bread making, Jim Lahey developed artisanal bread that is entirely his own and soon can be yours. It takes only a pot to create what Mark Bittman in the New York Times calls “the best no-work bread you have ever made.” The method, which captured worldwide attention, is practically foolproof and allows the home baker to let the dough rise slowly, without any kneading or fuss, and then bake it in a heavy, preheated pot.
An Excerpt from the Introduction
Though I couldn’t have anticipated it, I’m flattered and delighted--blown away, really--by the worldwide and seemingly never-ending attention my no-knead, bread-in-a-pot technique has received since the recipe was published in the New York Times in November 2006. The article, written by Mark Bittman, had an immediate impact: a cascade of Internet traffic that resulted in home bakers all around the world giving it a shot--and reporting great success. Through television, print media, and blogs, the Lahey method has taken on a powerful life of its own.
That’s just what I always wanted. I wanted to do whatever I could to help bread matter more, for people to fall in love with bread as I did when I began baking two decades ago. The object of my deepest affection, especially early on, was always the rustic, deep-flavored bread of the Italian countryside.
I am (I admit it) a driven man--driven by the belief that bread, especially the mass-produced bread we find most everywhere, no longer enjoys the respect it once had. And, unfortunately, most of the better bread made in this country can only be found in boutique bakeries, often located too far away from home, and for too much money. Also, to my mind, so many of the so-called artisanal breads are the result of shortcuts and compromises. We don’t have a strong bread culture in America. Too many people don’t really know what bread should taste like, and too few have experienced the process of baking it. For most people, the best way to taste bread as it should be is to bake it themselves.
Good bread should be a masterpiece of contrast, crackling as you bite through the browned, malty-smelling crust, then deeply satisfying as you get to the meaty, chewy crumb with its distinct wheaten, slightly acidic taste. And that’s precisely the sort of loaf you’ll produce at home with my method. It relies on only flour, water, salt, and a tiny amount of yeast, with very little in the way of effort or equipment. The recipe is so simple and forgiving it’s practically foolproof.
I start this book with my own story--The Making of a Bread Baker--which I hope you’ll find both instructive and a good read. In Chapter 2, we get to the technique itself, which I arrived at after years of experimentation. The technique is simply this: the dough is lightly mixed and allowed to rise very slowly for 12 to 18 hours (there is no vigorous kneading), then baked in a preheated pot that serves as an oven within an oven. In that chapter, I also spell out the chemistry and other details of the miracle that turns a gluey mess into something beyond terrific.
In the following chapter, I offer variations on my master recipe, each with its own distinct appeal, from an olive-studded loaf to an Italian baguette (the stirato). You’ll find some playfulness here, too, with several unusual breads like the ones that use juice as the liquid instead of water. All along the way, I encourage you to experiment, to find your own variations. There’s also a chapter on bread’s closest cousin, pizza, and one on Italian sandwiches, which I think may surprise you as you come to understand how much thought can go into the pairing of ingredients with great bread. And since I hope you’ll be baking bread more and more (and so will have a lot left over), I included recipes in the final chapter that illustrate how to take stale bread and bring it back to life in exciting dishes. The possibilities for gustatory satisfaction and personal fulfillment are endless.
Yield: One 10-inch round loaf; 1 1/2 pounds
Equipment: A 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-quart heavy pot
When I first opened Sullivan Street, with Roman baking in mind, this slightly pungent olive loaf immediately became my signature bread. As a result of the brine the olives release during baking, this recipe calls for no salt.
- bread flour/3 cups/400 grams
- roughly chopped pitted olives (see Note)/about 1 1/2 cups/200 grams
- instant or other active dry yeast/3/4 teaspoon/3 grams
- cool (55 to 65 degrees F) water/
1 1/2 cups/300 grams
- wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour for dusting
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, olives, and yeast. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.
When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, lift the edges of the dough in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.
Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third, and place a covered 4 1/2 - to 5 1/2 -quart heavy pot in the center of the rack.
Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. (Use caution--the pot will be very hot...) Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more. Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to gently lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly.
NOTE: For this loaf, any pitted olive will yield something worth eating. (You don’t want to go to the trouble of pitting them yourself, because it is tedious and the results will not be as neat.) But what I turn to most often are pitted kalamata olives soaked in a pure salt brine--nothing else, just salt. A commonly available kalamata that I’m very fond of is made by Divina and can be found at many supermarkets and gourmet stores. You might think that because they’re black they will change the color of the bread, but they won’t, unless you carelessly dump some of the brine into the dough. Green Sicilian colossals, sometimes called “giant” olives, packed in pure salt brine, are another good option; they’re often available at Italian food stores.
Copyright © 2009 by Jim Lahey. Reprinted from My Bread with permission from W.W. Norton.
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