Homemade artisan bread even easier! My review of Jim Lahey’s “My Bread” (by da-AL)

A re-posting of a review I wrote for wonderful fellow blogger Jeyran.

"My Bread" by Jim Lahey book coverSurely there’s a place in heaven for bakers who have worked out the kinks of no-knead bread baking, the ones who share their secrets. No-knead recipes are yeasty home-baked goodness — within a fraction of the time.

Jim Lahey’s “My Bread” raised my no-knead loaves to Everest heights. Bread genius and angel to home bakers that he is, he does the rest of the no-knead cookbooks one better. He does away with the need for pizza stones and steam via his simple radical solution: baking in covered pots.

Recipes are for me starting points to be fiddled with after my first try, not destinations to be rigorously followed. Lahey’s recipes, all easy, forgive my deviations unconditionally. A straightforward writer, he encourages such experimentation!

2 loaves of no-knead breadThese two loaves are loose renditions of his “Pane Integrale/Whole Wheat Bread,” the ones he mouthwateringly illustrates and describes on pages 60-62. For brunch last Sunday, I baked them together. The smaller is a whole recipe. The larger one, a double recipe, needed a bit longer to bake thoroughly.

At the beginning of the book, Lahey discusses how long dough should be left to rise. Two hours is the minimum, yet more patience is rewarded with more fermentation. I’ve left my dough out for as long as 24 hours before baking. Every longer-rise loaf steams with tangy sourdough excellence.

Crock PotsAlong with messing with the ingredients (I added oatmeal to the smaller loaf, more whole wheat flour and less white flour to both of them) my personal innovation is to usually use crock pots in the oven, not the electric part of course, instead of other types of pots. That way, I don’t risk ruining yet another non-metal handle.

Whatever I use, I line with parchment paper for easier extraction. The paper embosses intriguing creases.

Parchment paper makes things easier
Parchment paper makes loaves slide out easier, plus it lends fun creases.
How to cut no-knead loaves
Scissors help with the last bit of slicing.

Forget about Wonder Bread or anything akin to grocery store texture. My loaves come out dense and crusty, a handmade delight to be experienced only by the truly fortunate. In the interest of not squashing the lofty goodness when I saw into each loaf, I use an electric carving knife that my mom gifted to my husband. To not risk mangling my already uneven slices, I use scissors for the final bit of cutting.

Dough, just like baked bread, can be refrigerated for a week or so. Freezing makes it last much longer, but allow it to thaw to room temperature before baking.

Non-book note: Initially, when baked at Lahey’s recommended 475º, my oven emitted an offensive metallic odor. An appliance repairman set my qualms to rest. He advised me to run the oven at 500º for a couple of hours. The oven has since been odor-free.2 loaves cooling in window

cut loafJeyran’s book review blog