Wednesday, December 1, 2010

No Knead Bread, but I only heard about it last Sunday

I'm a fan of Lynne Rosetto Kasper's Splendid Table, and I was listening to it as background noise last Sunday. One of her guests was Jim Lahey, owner of the Sullivan Street Bakery, and the inventor of No Knead Bread. He was making claims on the show that this is a chewy, wonderful rustic bread, just the kind I've been looking for.

Of course, I was off Googling the Internet for No Knead Bread recipes, and they all came back to Jim's basic recipe, a recipe so simple that even I could make it. It has four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water. You stir them together in a bowl, cover it, and let it sit for the next 18 - 20 hours. Then you (minimally) shape the loaf, let it proof for another couple of hours. Finally, you really crank up the heat in the oven, and bake the loaf. It's baked in a covered, heated dutch oven, then the loaf is uncovered, and the baking continues until the top of the loaf is browned.

This isn't to say that other recipes aren't out there. They are, but they acknowledge Jim's genius, and they use his methods and recipe proportions. The method was published in 2006, but as the old joke goes, I only heard about it yesterday. Even Martha Stewart has her version of No Knead Bread. She uses olive oil to grease the mixing bowl, and to grease the top of the bread dough while it's rising. The oil is not necessary.

I like this bread for several reasons: it is simple. It heats up the kitchen when it's cold outside. The loaf really is a rustic loaf. The texture is crusty, chewy, and holely. The gluten forms during the long rising, and the flavor is distinct - a slight sourness rounded out by the salt, with a smoky aroma. Although the crust is singed in places, the loaf does not taste burnt. The loaf looks like and tastes like it just came out of a wood-fired oven.