Friday afternoon I randomly came across a journalistic nightmare in the Danish newspaper Politiken titled “Jims Laheys perfekte brød”. The article mentions a Jims Lahey in its heading, without ever telling us who this person is. The introduction tells us that the bread is Italian, but the fact box tells us that its nationality is American. After a little research, I learned that the person’s real name is Jim Lahey, and that he is the owner of the Sullivan St Bakery in New York. His interest for art and natural beauty (what?) originally brought him to Italy, but he became interested in Italian bread instead. Today his mission – just like many other bakers and bakeries – is to bring Italian breads to America. To correct Politiken: the baker’s name is Jim Lahey, he is an American, he invented a simple, no-knead bread in his bakery in New York, and the bread is inspired by Italian breads.
The recipe for Jim’s bread is given in the article Baking the perfect loaf of bread at home. The Politiken article reproduces this recipe to a large extent. In spite of my initial negativity, I decided to try Jim’s recipe. It sounded easy, I had the ingredients ready, and for some time I’ve wanted to make a no-knead bread. No-knead means that the bread rises for a very long time instead of being subjected to kneading. In contrast to dough that should be kneaded, dough for no-knead breads is quite wet. The extra crusty part of this post’s title comes from the fact that the bread was baked in a covered vessel. Okay, back on track! Friday evening I stirred a tiny piece of yeast (the size of two green peas) into 300 grams of water, added 8 grams of salt, stirred some more and then added 300 grams of wheat flour and 100 grams of oatmeal. The ingredients are mixed for 30 seconds or so, until all of the flour and oatmeal has met the water. You end up with something like this:
Plastic wrap the bowl and let the dough rise for 12-18 hours at room temperature. I covered the bowl with a discloth, which I cannot recommend, as the dough’s humidity isn’t preserved. My dough actually rised for approx 20 hours, which didn’t turn out to be a problem. When the time has passed, take the dough out of the bowl on a table with some wheat flour. Fold it a couple of times at different angles – it’s almost like 30 seconds of kneading. Put it back into the bowl and let it rise for an additional two hours. When an hour and a half has passed, find a pot in which the bread fits and which can withstand to be baked at high temperature in an oven. Put the pot and its lid into your oven and set it on 250 °C. When the dough is done rising for the second time, i.e. approx 30 minutes later, put the dough into the hot pot, put on its lid and put it into the oven. Set the oven on 230 °C. Bake the bread at this setting for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake it for an additional 15 minutes. Let it cool down for an hour before cutting/eating. I didn’t have a suitable pot, but a loaf pan and another pan to cover it worked like a charm – a trick which is hereby passed on.
My friend and work colleague Georg Sluyerman visited me on Saturday to check out my new apartment and to go on a 10 km run with me on the bicycle paths in Aalborg Øst. This coincided with my bread experiment, and we ended up enjoying the freshly baked bread with cheese and with a Danish specialty called “Dyrlægens natmad”. The specialty is a combination of liver pate, salted meat, red onion rings and jelly. All of it was of course accompanied by very tasty beer from the breweries Bryggeriet Refsvindinge and Thisted Bryghus.
Of course, when you let Georg near electronics, he takes them apart 🙂
For my Danish readers I can recommend the following video by Max Møller Rasmussen, the food hacker behind kvalimad.dk, where he shows how easy it is to put together a nice no-knead bread:
It is evident that my cooking skills can be improved upon 🙂