Thursday, April 16, 2009

No-knead bread sensation sweeping the nation?

In a review of the new cookbook Kneadlessly Simple, Sara Dickerman at Slate talks about recent trend in bread recipes that require no (or almost no) kneading:
Her book emerges on the heels of a wave of no-knead (or barely kneaded) bread enthusiasm that swelled up two and a half years ago, when Mark Bittman of the New York Times introduced New York baker Jim Lahey's method of bread baking: Instead of pushing a sizable dose of yeast in a few hours, a smaller measure of yeast is given a long time (on the order of 24 hours) to act on a rather humid dough, resulting in a lovely loaf without the time-consuming and laborious step of kneading.

The idea behind "no knead" bread recipes boils down to this:
In the modern past, bread recipes had you develop gluten—the springy but strong network of proteins that capture the carbon-dioxide bubbles the yeast creates in the dough—by manhandling the dough by hand or mixer. If you didn't knead efficiently or long enough, you'd end up with tough, unpleasant bread. But if you slow the rising time down—in fact, an older approach to baking—the agitation caused by the bubbling yeast itself can bring together the gluten matrix.
I've been meaning to learn to bake bread for ages now... especially since I got Cookwise for Christmas... and since by the time an article appears in Slate about something "new", it usually means the train has long since left the station, I feel fairly motivated to try it. The theory behind the technique is pretty neat, and it sounds like it's pretty easy for a n00b to make a decent loaf... which makes it perfect for me.

Though since I don't just want to make "easy bread" and leave it at that, I'm not ultimately wedded to the no-knead concept, but I figure I might as well start there. It seems like a good baseline... since as the article states, it's kind of like entry level baking (I think I probably need more of a "Baking for Dummies" but hopefully I'll do O.K.).

So sometime next week I'll give Cook's Illustrated's "Almost No-Knead Bread with Olives, Rosemary, and Parmesan" a shot, and of course, blog the results.