Jim Lahey's Bread
Apparently the world has known about this wonderful, no-knead bread recipe for about a thousand years. Where have I been?
My discovery came only a few weeks ago on a trip to the country, specifically, the gorgeous home belonging to my friend Lizzie and her family. It was a sort of impromptu weekend away with all the 'bridesmaids' (a tag Ames, Jen and Lizzie may wear for the years and decades following our wedding). And wow! How two days in the Australian bush scrubs your soul clean. The sound of wind rustling through lofty natives, the giggles of Kookaburras, the lack of mobile phone reception. A night away felt like an amazing and restorative week. And the food... oh the food!
We also had time to hang out with Lizzie's parents: two fun and deeply interesting people. Her dad is a wine aficionado so we each enjoyed picking his brain over every meal, he also has a jaw-dropping collection of impressive drops #wineporn. And Lizzie's mum is a complete food connoisseur but she's casual about it, really a walking example of what a couple of decades of being interested in food looks like #perfection. Each meal she'd turn out delicious, crusty mounds of freshly baked bread (and olive oil-y, Italian baguettes), so simply and subtly you could have sworn there was a reclusive French baker in their pantry.
When I asked about the recipe, Lizzie and her mum chimed, "It's Jim Lahey."
Oh, riiiiiighhht. So there was a baker in the pantry.
"It's really easy, you know his no-knead recipe?"
So, no baker in the pantry?
Then it was embarrassingly revealed to me, the girl who's ambitiously writing a cookbook, Jim Lahey is the baker behind of one of the most popular recipes ever published in the New York Times. His bread making method has been called "revolutionary" because it's so simple; no kneading, no work, perfect results.
I couldn't wait to try it out myself when I got home and was so chuffed with the final product (pictured above). Unlike any other food item bread making feels like a journey; you leave it to rise for 12-18 hours, hope it's developing those necessary air pockets - that it's finally like a mini-birthing process when that fully formed bun comes out of the oven, crisp!
So here's the New York Times recipe... I managed to get my hands on fresh yeast at my local deli, so just dissolved about 3g of it in warm water following this recipe and went back to the original one below.
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
- ¼ teaspoon instant yeast (or fresh, see note above)
- 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
- Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
- In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
- Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
- Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
- At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
So, in case there are any other life-changing recipes out there I'm missing out on, tell me what are your favourites? Your fall backs? Or those ones that wonder a crowd but secretly take little effort?