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A baker in knead

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Whenever people find out I used to work as a baker in an artisan bread bakery, they inevitably ask: Do you make your own bread at home?

Ironically, before working at the bakery I did. You would think that after a year of learning the intricacies of kneading, timing, shaping, and having access to recipes that produced incredible loaves, my home bread baking would be in full gear. But after much experimenting, I realized I was missing one thing: an $800,000 commercial bread oven. No matter how many tricks I tried at home (pizza stone, spraying water in the oven to mimic steam, ice cubes thrown on the oven floor) I found it impossible to recreate the crackly crust I loved so much in artisan breads.

Then, a few years ago, along came Jim Lahey of New York’s Sullivan Street Bakery with his recipe for No-Knead Bread. I never had a problem with kneading—I actually like the meditative physicality of it. But his strategy of a very wet dough baked in a lidded Dutch oven was a revelation in the way it mimicked a commercial steam oven.

Of course, my joy was tempered by the fact that I didn’t want to make (or eat) white bread all the time. So I was thrilled to come across Nancy Baggett’s recipe for an 8-grain loaf that uses the no-knead, overnight-rise method. From her just-released book Kneadlessly Simple, the recipe makes a huge, 3-pound loaf packed with flax seed, whole wheat and rice flours, wheat germ, oats, poppyseeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Nutty, chewy, yet not dense, it requires minimal effort for maximum results. Nancy has been posting some recipes from her book on her web site, kitchenlane.com, where she also has an article explaining her method in detail. Let me know if you give it a try.

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  • User avater
    sixburnersue | 03/05/2009

    Hi Lisa! Wow this looks so good. I had my cast iron pots out this morning thinking about my short ribs story for FC--now I'm thinking I want to bake bread (this bread, right here, right now!) instead. Yum and thanks. Susie

  • User avater
    DMickelsen | 03/03/2009

    Lisa, what gorgeous bread! Bring some into the office next time! : )

  • pumkinfolk | 03/03/2009

    Ms Lisa - I never, ever thought I could bake bread on my own, but reading your words and seeing that photo has got me rethinking the whole situation. Thank you for sharing your excitement and expertise.

  • breadlady | 03/03/2009

    Hi Lisa,

    That loaf looks really yummy! I am the author of Kneadlessly Simple, and unless I'm mistaken that is my Crusty Seeded Cracked Wheat Boule? I am glad to see that it came out just the way it does in my kitchen. I, too, sometimes want a change of pace from white breads and sweet breads, though I like those, too. You are right about the boule being huge--I didn't see any point in gathering together the various ingredients and then making a skimpy loaf!

    I am so glad you like my book and appreciate your writing about it. I should mention to those who have only made the original Jim Lahey type of no-knead bread that mine are simply turned out directly into the pot so there is no need for a floured countertop or towel at all.

    Happy Baking!

    Nancy Baggett

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