This Bread Book will Change Your (Baking) Life

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Over the years I have acquired a substantial collection of classic bread baking books (like Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and Whole Grain Breads, Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Bread Bible, and Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery). I have tested recipes here and there but they all seem to require a large investment of time to master, time I don’t want to invest for something that we need to limit our consumption of.

Then I got a copy of Jim Lahey’s, My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method. This was the first time I attempted any type of home made bread baking beyond my weekly challah. My first try was good. The second time was amazing (I used a kitchen scale). I now bake this bread for Shabbat more then I do my challah.

What attracts me to Lahey’s book as opposed to many of the other no-knead bread books on the shelves is the long fermentation time (about 18 hours) and the high hydration of the dough which resembles a more traditional method of baking and helps reduce enzyme inhibitors present in grains.

This is the book that finally gave me the courage to attempt sourdough baking (though his book does not explore this). Sourdough breads require a long fermentation time so Lahey’s method was easy to adapt. His recipe uses only 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. I replaced that with 1/4 cup of sourdough starter and yielded a wonderful sourdough artisan bread.  I also baked a no-knead, 100% sprouted grain bread in a loaf pan that worked well as a sandwich bread.

Some useful tips if you decide to take the plunge to no-knead baking.

1. Use a kitchen scale for the best results. (Mine improved dramatically when I used the proper measurements).

2. The Breadtopia website has a video demonstration for the Basic No Knead Method that gives some tips for the folding (as opposed to kneading) technique and some troubleshooting tips (there is also a video demo for the sourdough version).

3. Lahey reccommends a dutch oven or similar covered pot for his basic bread (a Lodge Logic Dutch Oven or the lighter weight Emile Henry Round Stewpot).

For sourdough and 100% whole grain breads you may consider using a rectangular shape covered baker like the Sassafras Superstone. A loaf pan works great for a no-knead whole grain sandwich bread.  These options will give the dough more support and a better rise. I have read good things about the Romertopf Clay Baker as well for no-knead breads.

4. I also recommend Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day where he simplifies his techniques from previous books. Reinhart provides a greater variety of recipes then Lahey’s book; from simple french breads, whole grain and sourdough breads to desserts. It includes a section on creating your own sourdough starter. I have started to incorporate both Reinhart’s and Lahey’s simplified techniques to my baking.

I’m not so sure I’ll be dusting off my other bread books anytime soon.

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Olive and Rosemary No-Knead Bread
Adapted from “My Bread” by Jim Lahey.

300 grams bread flour  (about 2 1/4 cups)
100 grams sprouted whole wheat flour (3/4 cup)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp instant yeast or 1/4 cup sourdough starter
300 grams water  (1 1/3 cups)
1 cup chopped sun dried black olives
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary

1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl (you will have a wet and sticky dough). Let sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours covered.
2. Scoop out dough onto a floured work surface. Fold the edges of the dough into the center a few times and let rest 15 minutes. Shape dough into a ball. Coat a lint free towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal. Place the dough seam side down on the towel and cover with another towel. Let rise about two hours, until doubled in size.
3. Place a covered (cast iron or ceramic) pot in the oven and preheat oven to 475 degrees at least half hour before you plan to bake. When you are ready to bake, carefully remove the preheated pot and invert  the dough into the pot (seam side up). Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for another 15-30 minutes until browned (but not burnt). Let cool on a rack for an hour before slicing.

Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery Website.

Mark Bittman popularized Lahey’s method in the New York Times article; The Secret to Great Bread: Let Time do the Work.

Read more about soaking grains and enzyme inhibitors at the Weston A. Price website; Be Kind to Your Grains…And Your Grains Will be Kind to You.

This post is linked to The Healthy Home Economist | Monday Mania, GNOWFGLINS | Tuesday Twister, A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa | Two for Tuesdays, Kelly the Kitchen Kop | Real Food Wednesday, and The Nourishing Gourmet | Pennywise Platter Thursday.

Do you have a favorite bread book? Have you tried the no-knead method?

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