Friday, January 22, 2010

Latest Autodidact Project: Artisan Bread

My husband and I are watching all the episodes of Michael Colameco's television Food Show which airs on PBS. We're using our DVR to record all the episodes as we didn't watch them when they were first-run's. On the show Colameco visits New York City restaurants or bakeries and discusses the history of the business. A chef or baker demonstrates making one of their signature food items then the show ends with Michael cooking in his own kitchen, something more basic, easy and fast for the home cook.

One episode in particular blew us away: when Michael visited the Sullivan Street Bakery, located in Hell's Kitchen. Slow rising artisan bread is made there. The loaves were unbelievable! Also shown was their mushroom pizza and an all-white sauce pizza. We were so hungry by the end of the show, which was a problem as we finished watching it at about eleven at night!

My husband sent me to the Internet to see where the bakery was located and he hatched plans to go there some time in the future. Next he asked to look for a free recipe online or if they have published a cookbook. Indeed, they have. Owner Jim Leahy published "My Bread". Of course we had to buy it!

Once we had the book in hand we learned how to adapt to making artisan bread at home in a conventional oven with the aid of a cast iron pot with a lid. Unless you have a pizza oven at home to use, the pot cooking method is the substitute.

The bread has very little yeast (1/4 teaspoon per loaf). The only ingredients are white flour, water, yeast and salt. It is mixed by hand in one pot (easily) and does not require kneading. The rise is slow, 12 hours on a warm day or 18-24 on a winter day or in a cool room. This recipe is free online here. The recipe with more detailed instructions and photographs is in the cookbook.

Yesterday I began making the bread. It is simpler than regular homemade bread but just has a few steps regarding preheating the pot and lid in the oven, then two baking steps and a last torturous step of waiting a full hour before cutting open the loaf! In the last phase as the bread cools more changes are happening and the loaves make snapping and crackling sounds.

The bread has a wonderful aroma and real flavor. The crust is crunchy and has texture. The inside has large air bubbles and is tender.

Here are some photos of the steps of my first attempt, which has been deemed a success by everyone in my family!

simple one bowl mixing by hand at noon, day one:

left to rise in same bowl:

checking in on the rise at about 8pm, day one:

at the 18 hour rise point in time (day two):

long gluten strands can be seen:

dough was turned onto itself, tucking the seam underneat, let rise about 90 more minutes:

raw loaf put into preheated cast iron (enamel coated) pot (lid put on after) before put into oven:

after baking 30 minutes with lid on, removed the lid, sneak preview:

after baking without lid for another 15 minutes, cooling for one hour:

the finished loaf ready to cut open:

You can bet I'll be diving deeper into "My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method" by Jim Leahy to find more recipes to try. My husband wants to try the one that uses fresh seawater the next time we're on the Atlantic coast!

Disclosure: I was not paid to write this blog post. Our book was purchased by us, for our family's use. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link at the top of my sidebar.


C T said...

This is a similar bread:

Deb said...

Thanks for posting this, Christine! My dough is rising right now, we'll be baking it tomorrow! Fingers crossed! Your photos make it look delicious.