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.