I’ve been on something of a bread-baking mission recently. I reckon I’m a reasonable bread-maker. I’ve got a shelf full of baking books and I’ve been on one or two courses but never managed to master sourdough.
Then a few weeks ago I decided it was time to crack it. I thought producing the starter would be the difficult bit, far from it. While I managed to create a very decent starter, I couldn’t bake a decent loaf that I could be proud of. Most of them tasted pretty good but they were either misshapen, too wet, too dry, over-proved, under-proved.
Enlightenment came with a dough that required no-kneading at all. None. The recipe was created some ten years ago by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. (Yes, I know our ancestors have been making bread like this for ever) and it was a revelation.
The story goes that Lahey rang Mark Bittman, a columnist on the New York Times, just around the corner and invited him to come over. He had a new bread making method that gave professional results without any kneading at all. Bittman made a video of the process and the story went viral. It has remained one of the most popular recipes in the paper ever since.
The secret ingredient that makes this bread so wonderful, is time. Mix together flour, salt, yeast or sourdough starter and water into a ‘shaggy dough’ then leave it for 12 or up to 18 hours. Turn it out, fold it and let it prove for a further two hours then pour the wet dough into in a cast iron pot with a lid. I use a Le Creuset casserole (called a Dutch oven in the US) and bake for 30 mins in a hot oven. Take off the lid and let it crisp and brown for 15-30 mins and you will have the most amazing loaf.
Do have a go and let us know how you get on. The full recipe is here.