Friday, December 18, 2009

12 Days of Cookbooks: My Bread by Jim Lahey

There are a host of new books on baking your own artisan style breads, and thanks to a 30% off Borders coupon, I am now the proud owner of My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method.

Probably because I am not much of a baker, I missed the New York Times article featuring Jim Lahey's technique, with Mark Bittman extolling it's virtues. But now there is an entire book with recipes and photos.

The method involves an extra long rise of 18-24 hours then baking in a preheated pot. The preheated pot provides and 'oven within an oven', which provides a way to seal in the steam in approximate a commercial oven.

Apparently there was a spate of stolen Le Creuset knobs in kitchen stores after the NY Times article, because the knob isn't rated for the 500 degree temps called for in the bread recipes. Lahey helpfully suggests removing the knob and plugging the screw hole with foil to preserve your knob.

Why I like this book over the the others lining the shelves: Very clear instructions, including step by step pictorials, a few variations, but not an overwhelming number of recipes, a nice section of focaccias and pizzas, on of the most interesting sections on building sandwiches completely from scratch, and a section on using stale bread.

I like the variations with whole grains, fruits, and veggies, including gluten-free ingredients, but have to confess that for a non-baker, this book is so information dense that it's hard for me to focus on what I would want to make. This book has you make and keep a starter that you can use in a variety of recipes; I've neglected and lost a few mothers in the fridge in the past.

Like a lot of foods, artisan breads have pretty much spoiled me. The thought of eating a squishy commercial sliced bread, that somehow manages to defy growing mold for nearly a month, isn't really appealing.

On the other hand, the price and sometimes enormous size of artisan loaves, in a small household, can be overwhelming. You can only make so many breadcrumbs....

So stay tuned, soup and freshly baked bread sound like a good way to spend a few winter days.

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