Making bread with Jim Lahey's my bread
The revolutionary no-work, no-knead breadmaking method
By Tricia Brown
Jim Lahey, owner of the famous Sullivan Street Bakery in New York, originally studied sculpting and planned for a life as an artist. A trip to Rome, however, during which he discovered food and cooking as he had never experienced it before changed his life forever: rather than sculpture it was the art of baking that was to become his passion.
Back in New York he baked the Italian-style bread he had eaten in Italy and sold it in markets; what he couldn't sell he gave away. His bread was everything mass-produced bread was not: rustic, rugged and flavourful.
In 1994 he started Sullivan Street Bakery and his breads were soon on restaurant tables across New York. Also, more and more customers sought out the exquisite handcrafted breads at the bakery. In 2000 Sullivan Street Bakey moved to West 47th Street and many changes followed with not just bread being sold but also things like Roman style pizzas and Italian pastries.
With a desire to bring bread making to everyone, he offered baking classes and it was these classes that forced him into streamlining his baking techniques so that they could be used at home. In doing this he began developing his no-knead technique.
My bread steps you through this technique along with precise information on everything you need to know about flour, yeast, salt, heat, singing (a snapping chorus made by the bread as it cools) and storing your bread. The basic recipe chapter includes step-by-step photographs for the perfect loaf every time.
There are recipes for many different types of bread including some classic Italian ones such as pane all'olive (olive bread) to baguettes to an unusual fennel-raisin bread. A distinctly American peanut butter and jelly bread started out as an idea for kids but has become a huge hit with adults.
Many of the recipes throughout my bread have step-by-step photographs and all have very clear instructions making it one of the most easy-to-follow cookbooks I have seen for a long time. It is obvious a lot of thought and time has gone into developing these recipes for home use.
A chapter is devoted to pizza and has enough easy to follow information to inspire anyone to get started on making their own. Pizza bianca, one of the least adorned pizzas (usually just good olive oil and rosemary), is a Sullivan Street Bakery signature.
An unusual but absolutely fabulous inclusion is a chapter called The Art of the Sandwich, a mouthwatering collection of ingredients and sandwich fillings to inspire. How about pancetta, mango and basil or a green onion bagna cauda, mozzarella and duck egg sandwich?
My bread concludes with a chapter on stale bread which is useful since if you are baking your own bread you are bound to have older loaves sitting around. Other than turning into breadcrumbs or croutons, there are recipes here for Italian favourites such as ribollita, a thick Tuscan bean and kale soup which is a meal in itself and a particular favourite of mine.
This is a different kind of baking book and not only because of its new revolutionary no-work, no-knead method of making bread. I was won over by the story of artist to baker, Lahey's passion for bread-making and his dedication to bringing the art of ancient bread-making techniques to the modern home kitchen.
I haven't tried the no-knead technique but I intend to as it is impossible to ignore the enthusiasm for all things bread contained within these pages. As Jim Lahey says: "The best way to taste bread as it should be is to bake it yourself".
My bread by Jim Lahey is published by W. W. Norton & Company and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd (2009; RRP A$39.95). Subscribers of VisitVineyards.com and Winepros Archive can purchase this book at 12.5% discount from our book partners Seekbooks (postage extra).
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