Saturday, May 1, 2010

OUR DAILY BREAD


My version of Jim Lahey's famous "No-Knead Bread" with white flour from the original recipe as published in The New York Times and baked in my New York kitchen.

Pane Integrale or whole wheat bread from Jam Lahey's MY BREAD with 2 and 1/4 cups of bread flour and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, made recently in my Portland kitchen.

When Mark Bittman published a recipe by Jim Lahey of New York's famed Sullivan Street Bakery for a rustic-looking artisanal loaf of bread that looked like a boule from a Parisian bakery, in The New York Times, the effect was electrifying. For months people talked about this recipe, marveling that one could replicate it so easily at home. Here was a beautiful loaf of bread that could be easily made at home without a lot of fuss, looked handsomely rustic and tasted great. I made it right away, and the results were outstanding. At the time I was working from my home office, so I had a fine loaf of bread for toast in the morning and a sandwich at lunch. I estimated the cost of this loaf of bread to be under $1.00. I was accustomed to paying at least $3.00 a loaf and often higher. It required only three cups of flour, a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast, some water and salt and a 6-quart Dutch oven (as it turns out, my antique Griswold four-quart Dutch oven with a heavy glass top worked just as well and made a higher loaf). The catch was really no catch at all, though this dough does require a rising time of between 12 and 18 hours. The good news is that you mixed it up very quickly, covered it and went about your business without having to fuss with the dough--there was no kneading required. I quickly got into the habit of mixing the dough at 12:00 noon and then in the morning, giving the dough a few turns with a little extra flour, and then letting it rise an additional two hours before putting it in a very hot pot pre-heated in my oven to a high 450 degrees. This allowed me to enjoy the crackling, crunchy crust of the bread in my lunch sandwich--a fleeting pleasure, as the minute you wrap the bread (or any other bread for that matter) that magical crunch disappears.

It is now three plus years since I first started making this wonderful bread. I make other loaves and sometimes let my old bread machine do the mixing and rising before baking it in the oven, but nothing tastes quite as good as this superb loaf. I now often mix two cups of white flour with one cup of whole wheat flour with great results. Sometimes I add 1/2 teaspoon of yeast instead of 1/4 teaspoon. I've made the bread with olives. I've experimented with the amount of water from the original 1 5/8 cups of water in Bittman's original writing of the recipe, to the 1 1/3 cups that Jim Lahey now recommends in his great baking opus, MY BREAD: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method (written with Rick Flaste; Norton; $29.95; ISBN: 978-0-393-06630-2). The dough which is very soft and "wet" is much easier to handle. So popular has this recipe become that Cook's Illustrated magazine weighed in with its own version of Lahey's original recipe, adding a small amount of beer and white wine vinegar, cutting down the water, and kneading the bread slightly. I liked the results, but Lahey's recipe didn't need improving. However, Cook's Illustrated did fix the one thing I never liked about Lahey's creation and that was moving this incredibly soft dough into the hot Dutch oven, which could be downright dangerous and was always messy. Their method required putting the dough on a length of parchment sprayed with cooking spray and put into a shallow fry pan to rest for the final rise. Using this parchment "sling" you could easily transfer the dough to the hot pot holding the parchment at both ends, cover the pot and put it in the oven to bake. This is far preferable to trying to "dump" it in a hot pot from the kitchen towel you've dusted with bran flakes or flour or corn meal and thus scattering debris in every direction.

Pizza Patate

MY BREAD
is full of Jim Lahey's great recipes for breads, pizzas and focaccias, and rolls. The first thing I made from the book was a Pizza Patate, a sensational combination I first tasted in Rome on my first visit to that magical city. Thin slices of potato, onion, are tossed with olive oil and rosemary is added to the finished pizza. This amazing pizza emerged from my oven a deep golden color on the edges of the dough, with crisp caramelized edges on the potatoes and glistening with olive oil. I sprinkled some salt and red pepper flakes and dug in. The flavors of potato, rosemary, sweetened onion just sang. Then I made Pizza Bianco, which we ate one night and saved the rest for a sandwich the next day. We simply piled our sandwich fixings on top of the re-heated pizza and enjoyed a delicious open-faced sandwich.

Pizza Bianca

Bianca in Italian means “white,” which is not exactly what a pizza bianca is. “Almost naked” might be a better description, as it is one of the least adorned pizzas. It’s pretty much a flatbread that you flavor with good olive oil (unlike my basic pizza dough) and often some herbs. I use rosemary leaves here, but any fresh herb or combination that appeals to you will work. And that’s it. In Rome, pizza bianca is eaten in the morning, the way Americans eat buttered toastand then throughout the day, too, because Romans never seem to be able to get enough of a really wonderful, simple thing. Notice that this pizza is not made on a baking sheet, as the others are, but is baked on a stone and requires a peel to get it in and out of the oven. Both the peel ($20 or so) and stone (usually around $25) are quite inexpensive; they are available in kitchen stores and on the Internet (through Amazon, among other sources).

Yield: One 14-inch pie; 6 to 8 slices
Equipment: A large (at least 14 inches in diameter) pizza stone and a pizza peel

ingredients

measure

weight

bread flour, plus additional for dusting

3 cups

400 grams

instant or other active dry yeast

¼ teaspoon

1 gram

table salt

½ teaspoon

4 grams

sugar

¾ teaspoon

4 grams

cool (55 to 65 degrees F) water

1½ cups

350 grams

extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for coating the bowl and brushing

¼ cup

60 grams

coarse sea salt

½ teaspoon

4 grams

fresh rosemary, leaves removed

3 sprigs

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and yeast. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Lightly coat a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in it. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature, until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 9 to 12 hours. (While most of the breads in this book can rise for as long as 18 hours, this one is at the short end of the range because a longer rise would cause the dough to be less elastic, more firm, and it needs to be stretched out.)

2. When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface (a cutting board is useful here) with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece; as you begin to pull it away from the bowl, it will cling in long, thin strands and will be quite loose and sticky. Using lightly floured hands, fold the dough over itself two or three times and nudge it into a loose, rather flat ball. Brush the surface of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with the coarse salt (which will gradually dissolve on the surface). Put the dough in a warm, draft-free spot and let rise until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.

3. Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F, with a rack in the center, and place a pizza stone, at least 14 inches in diameter, in the center of the rack.

4. Generously dust a pizza peel with flour and place the ball of dough in the middle. Spread out the fingers of one hand, like a claw, and drive your fingers into the dough, but do not puncture it (short nails are essential; see photos, page 136): you want to simultaneously create dimples in the dough and spread it out across the peel. Continue working your hand across the dough and dimpling it until you have a bumpy disk about 12 inches in diameter. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the rosemary leaves.

5. With the peel resting on the counter (this part gets easier with practice), grasp the handle and give it a quick little tug: you want the pizza to just barely move but stay on the peel. (Loosening it makes it easier to slide it onto the baking stone.) If the dough sticks to the peel, gently lift it around the edges and add flour to the peel. Shake the pizza onto the baking stone. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown on the mounds but still pale in the dimples.

6. Slide the peel under the pizza and transfer it to a rack to cool for at least a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Variation • Schicciata d’Uva (Sweet Raisin and Grape Pizza)

After scraping the dough out onto the work surface in Step 2, scatter about 10 grams (1 heaping tablespoon) raisins over the surface of the dough. Then proceed by folding the dough and brushing it with olive oil, but sprinkle it with 2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar instead of the coarse salt. In Step 4, begin to dimple and stretch out the dough. Halfway through the dimpling process, spread 300 grams (about 3 cups) stemmed Concord grapes over the dough, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top, and continue dimpling, smashing some of the grapes into the dough as you do so. Sprinkle with 6 grams (about 2 teaspoons) anise seeds and 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake as directed.

In additions to such standards as Rye and Whole Wheat breads, Olive Bread, there are many fascinating breads and some of the more exotic include Carrot Bread, Jim's Irish Brown Bread, Peanut Butter and Jelly Bread, Coconut-Chocolate Bread, and a yeasty Fresh Corn Bread--all employing the no-knead method.

For anyone like me who has enjoyed Sullivan Street Bakery's other pizza offerings, it nice to know that I now have recipes for his versions of mushroom, zucchini and onion pizzas. There's Pizza Cavolfiore, an intoxicating blend of roasted cauliflower, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Sicilian green olives, red pepper flakes and bread crumbs.

MY BREAD also has a sandwich section with recipes for the fillings that go onto his baguette loaves (Stecca, Stirato--an Italian baguette--and Ciabatta), such as Rosemary Roast Beef, Citrus Roast Pork, Marinated Beets and Eggplant, Roasted Red Peppers, Spicy Eggplant Spread and Lemon Dressing. Panini receives it's own inspiring section and there's an entire chapter of recipes that utilize the inevitable stale bread. I'd bake a loaf, leave it out on the counter just to make something called Budino, a bread pudding tart, which I can hardly describe because it has a pudding inside a tart crust with caramel and fruit (this is an ambitious recipe that begged me to make it--soon).

Jim Lahey served a long and somewhat difficult apprenticeship as a breadmaker, struggling to get along with colleagues as he wrestled with his passion for making and mastering bread his way. He writes compellingly of his travels to and from New York and Italy, working for Amy Scherber (the owner of Amy's Breads, and a baker he admires and acknowledges as an important early mentor), as well as the children of Joe Allen, the owner of Joe Allen's and Orzo--popular New York theater district restaurants. All of this makes for a riveting opening chapter, "The Making of a Bread Baker."

I've been an sporadic baker of bread throughout my years of cooking, yet I have enthusiastically continued to add fine baking books to my cookbook collection. I read them, bake a loaf or two and forget about them. MY BREAD feels different. This is bread that speaks to me and I know will have wide appeal. Get this book, buy some bread flour and yeast and get busy. A well-made loaf of bread is one of the most satisfying accomplishments any baker can do.

1 comment:

  1. congrats! keep up the good work/this is a great presentation.

    Pizza Equipment

    ReplyDelete