Surely there’s a place in heaven for bakers who have worked out the kinks of no-knead bread baking, the ones who share their secrets with the rest of us. No-knead recipes are yeasty home baked goodness without the usual bother, and that take a fraction of the time to make.
Jim Lahey’s “My Bread” bumped my no-knead loaves to Everest heights. Bread genius and angel to home bakers that he is, he does the rest of the no-knead cookbooks one better. He does away with the need for pizza stones and steam via his simple radical solution: baking in covered pots.
Recipes, for me, are diving boards to be fiddled with after my first try, not destinations to be rigorously followed. Lahey’s recipes, all easy, forgive unconditionally. A straightforward writer, he encourages innovation!
These two loaves are loose renditions of his “Pane Integrale/Whole Wheat Bread,” the ones he lusciously illustrates and describes on pages 60-62. For brunch last Sunday, I baked them together. The smaller is a whole recipe. The larger one, a double recipe, needed a bit longer to bake thoroughly.
At the beginning of the book, Lahey discusses how long dough should be left to rise. Two hours is the minimum, yet more patience is rewarded with more fermentation. I’ve left my dough out for as long as 24 hours before baking. Every loaf steams with tangy sourdough excellence.
Along with messing with the ingredients (I added oatmeal to the smaller loaf, a whole wheat flour to both of them) my personal innovation is to usually use crock pots in the oven, not the electric part of course, instead of other types of pots. That way, I don’t risk ruining yet another non-metal handle.
Whatever I use, I line with parchment paper to ensure easy extraction. Plus, the paper embosses intriguing creases.
Forget about Wonder Bread or anything akin to grocery store texture. My loaves come out dense and crusty; a handmade delight to be experienced only by the truly fortunate. In the interest of not squashing the lofty goodness when I saw into each loaf, I use an electric carving knife that my mom gifted to my husband. Furthermore, to not risk mangling my already uneven slices, I use scissors for the absolute final bit of cutting.
Initially, when baked at Lahey’s recommended 475º, my oven emitted an offensive metallic odor. An appliance repairman set my qualms to rest. He advised me to run the oven at 500º for a couple of hours. The oven has been odor-free ever since.
Dough, just like bread, can be refrigerated for a week or so, as well as frozen for longer. For best results, allow the dough to come to room temperature before baking.