Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Bread deals with living things, with giving life, with growth, with the seed, the grain that nurtures. It is not coincidence that we say bread is the staff of life.
Lionel Poilane

ItalicI love baking bread. Unfortunately, it's not something I take the time to do as often as I'd like. For me it's relaxing, comforting and warm. There are many recipes that allow you to fit the bread into your day rather than making your day about the bread. But the thing of it is, I like to make my day about the bread. Every element of baking bread I love - the smells, sounds and feel. The silkiness of the flour. The wild smell of the yeast. The special wooden bread spoon. The old yellow ware bowl where I set my doughs to rise.

The smell of bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.
M.F.K. Fisher

At times I am successful and true to myself. Indulging in the most basic of pleasures. Bringing something delicious to life. Watching it grow before my eyes. The yeasty smell, a hint of what's to come.

Bread is the warmest, kindest of words. Write it always
with a capital letter,
like your own name.

Every year, particularly in the fall and winter, I promise to indulge myself more often and bake bread. Attempt the recipes that I have clipped. Work through an entire shelf of books devoted to the craft. The process is so gratifying. One that can't - or at least shouldn't - be rushed. A process made better by the passing of hours.

All sorrows are less with bread.
Miguel De Cervantes - Don Quixote

That said, I was so excited to see Jim Lahey's book, My Bread. The master of New York City's Sullivan Street Bakery. His practically foolproof method, allowing for the pleasures of bread, slowly and forgiving of time.

Flour, water, salt and a tiny bit of yeast stirred together and allowed to rest for 12-18 hours. Folded a few times and rested again on a generously floured cloth.

Baked in hot oven in a heavy pan with a lid.

Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of all feats.
James Beard

Over the course of 15-21 hours, mostly unattended, the above result is a beautiful reward. When I can't dedicate myself solely to bread, which is more often than not, it's wonderful to still be able to put a great loaf on the table.

The best bread was of my mother's own making---
the best in all the land.

Sir Henry James - Old Memories

And that is what it's all about.

No-Knead Bread

Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for work surface.
1/4 t. instant yeast
1 1/4 t. salt
Olive oil, as needed
Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed (optional)

In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Coat a second large bowl with olive oil. Transfer dough to oiled bow and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, bu preferable up to 18, in a room about 70 degrees in temperature. When surface is dotted with bubbles, dough is ready.

Lightly flour work surface. Place dough on work surface and sprinkle with more flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice. Loosely cover with plastic and let rest about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle just enough flour over the work surface and your fingers to keep the dough from sticking; quickly and gently shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton dish towel (not terry cloth) with flour, cornmeal or wheat bran; place dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, cornmeal or wheat bran. cover with a second cotton dish towel and let rise until it has more than doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.

After 1 1/2 hours, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place in a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot, such as cast-iron or Pyrex, in oven as it heats. When dough has fully risen, carefully remove pot from oven. Remove top towel from dough and slide your hand under the bottom of the towel; turn dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough looks unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until browned, 15-30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 1 1/2# loaf

1 comment:

Georgine said...

I love home made bread. I haven't made any since spring. Your bread is gorgeous, looks like it has a great crust. YUM!