Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Love of bread goes deep in our family. Abuelo Paco, my grandfather, would take daily early morning walks to the Comercio Bakery in Ponce, PR to get a warm loaf of bread, “pan de agua”, fresh out of the oven. He would place the fresh, warm loaf in the pit of his arm and hug the bread as he carried it back home. He believed this preserved the heat. At home, Abuela Sara would serve strong cups of instant Taster’s Choice coffee with milk that had been scalded and strained. Abuelo Paco would sit at the breakfast table and proceed to remove the soft core of the bread, roll it up into mounds and set them aside on his place mat to be discarded later. He only ate the crust, slathered in butter and dipped in hot coffee. Glistening pools of melted butter would swim around the surface of his coffee cup. There was something so right about this daily breakfast tradition.
Like Abuelo Paco, I walk to bakeries all over the city in search of good bread. I love rustic, brick oven breads with deep dark crusts and chewy insides with air pockets like swiss cheese. When I first learned about the Sullivan Street Bakery (back when the White Lily Tea Room served their semi di sesamo) I took several trips to Sullivan Street just to sample their breads. They make some of the best bread I have tried in the city.
When I read about Jim Lahey’s No-Knead method of bread making in this blog and later in an article by Mark Bittman, I was ecstatic and eager to try it out for myself. Jim Lahey teaches his No-Knead method of bread making at the Sullivan Street Bakery and has posted the recipe on his website.
Since early spring I have been experimenting with the recipe. The results are an airy loaf with a well developed flavor and a crusty dark crust, wonderful every time. The trick is using a heavy pot like a cast iron dutch oven or a heavy clay pot with a lid. The heavy pot creates an environment that simulates the steam conditions necessary to make a crusty bread. This recipe is a super easy way to make bread and I encourage everyone to try it. Below you will find Jim Lahey’s original recipe.
Note: The dough will become temperamental if you rise it in a kitchen with a temperature above the range suggested of 65-72°F. You will need to adjust the rising time or move your dough to a cooler room. During these hot summer months I have been rising the dough in a kitchen of over 85° and not adjusting the rising time and the dough becomes soupy and hard to handle. Even when this happens, though, the results are decent.
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread
3 cups (430g) flour
1 1/2 cups (345g or 12oz) water
1/4 teaspoon (1g) yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon (8g) salt
olive oil (for coating)
extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal (for dusting)
Two medium mixing bowls
6 to 8 quart pot with lid (Pyrex glass, Le Creuset cast iron, or ceramic)
Wooden Spoon or spatula (optional)
Two or three cotton dish towels (not terrycloth)
1. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add water and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lightly coat the inside of a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65-72°F).
2. Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface. next, shape the dough into ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size.
3. Preheat oven to 450-500°F. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes Then remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.
Makes 1 round loaf.