Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cookbook Review: My Bread

My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead MethodMy Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey

My very sweet brother and sister-in-law sent me this cookbook back when I was horribly ill, so I'd have something to peruse and plan while I was feeling too sick to do anything. Her brother is a real chef, with a restaurant and everything. He gave this book his seal of approval so she knew I'd like it. And I do!

Years ago, when Kansas Dad and I lived in New York City, we'd select all sorts of scrumptious food at local stores. (Let's not talk about how much money we used to spend on food!) One of our favorite meals was crusty bread with salami and cheese. I have tried a few times over the years to recreate that bread at home with no luck at all. I can make a good solid loaf of sandwich bread in the bread machine and some decent cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls from scratch, but the crusty loaf with soft crumbs on the inside eluded me and I finally gave up.

Until now.

Not only do the instructions and recipes in this book give the perfect loaf of crusty bread, but they are so easy and inexpensive anyone can make it! First Daughter nearly always helps me get it started.


Basically, you need some bread flour (and other flours like wheat or rye, if you want to try the variations), a smidge of salt, a tiny amount of yeast, and water. Mix it up and let it sit on your counter overnight. Back when it was winter, I let mine sit for 24 hours or so.

You can see the ingredients are simple and frugal. In fact, this wonderful bread uses a fraction of the yeast of a standard loaf of bread. Since it's often one of the most expensive ingredients, you can make a lot more bread for your money with this book.

Jim Lahey writes, "A benefit to using a smaller amount of yeast is that it makes room for naturally occurring flavorful bacteria that are attracted to flour to enter into the equation during the 12- to 18-hour fermentation." Do you know what that means? In a very real way, this bread can taste like home.

The dough is very wet at this point. It's hard to tell in the picture, but it's very sticky.


Then, you tuck the ends under and let it rise for about two hours before baking it in a cast-iron pot in the oven. Notice, I did not say knead. There really is no kneading involved. Just mixing and shaping. Here's a picture of my very first loaf (from a few months ago):


The picture looks pretty good, but the bread is unbelievably good. We rarely have a single bite left after cracking a loaf open.

Essential to the process is the cast-iron pot. We bought a Lodge Logic L8DOL3 Pre-Seasoned 5-Quart Dutch Oven with Loop Handles. It's just about the most reasonably-priced option. I think nearly any dutch oven would work, but believe it or not, we didn't own one! It works perfectly for the bread. We've also used it for lots of other meals and are very pleased with it.

Another tool that makes this bread simpler and more likely to succeed is a kitchen scale. A few years ago, I received the Oxo 1130800 Good Grips Food Scale with Pull-Out Display (11 lb, 5 kg) for Christmas. I use it almost every day and love it. You'll see a great improvement especially in breads with a kitchen scale because the balance of dry to wet ingredients is so important, but I use it for all sorts of baking and cooking. I've found it has decreased my dishes because I don't use nearly as many measuring cups.

The only hard part about the whole process is washing up. Trust me on this: wash your spoon immediately after mixing the bread. It will not come clean in the dishwasher and it will be annoying to wash by hand later. Along the same lines, soak or wash the bowl immediately after setting the dough to rise.

I cannot recommend this cookbook highly enough. I hope you all have a chance to try it yourself.

I did not receive anything for this post. I either purchased or received as a gift from family everything in this review. If you follow any likes to Amazon and make a purchase, I do receive a small referral fee.

4 comments:

  1. Sounds good! We love crusty bread, too.
    I'll see if the library has the book. Do you think you could use a cast-iron skillet instead? Or would it be best to use a non-cast-iron dutch oven?

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  2. Tiffany, the important thing is the "oven-in-an-oven" so you definitely want something with a lid. I think a non-cast-iron dutch oven would work.

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  3. That sounds and looks yummy! I put that on my Amazon wish list. I won't be making any bread this summer though. I don't even have a dutch oven, though. I have a soup pot, but it can't go in the oven. Would it work in a casserole dish with a glass lid?

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  4. H of B, I'm not sure. I'd check my copy but right now I'm typing while holding a wiggly baby. I know the big library has a copy so you could check it out and read what he says yourself about the proper pan. We had wanted a dutch oven anyway.

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