July 9, 2008 § 7 Comments
I love fresh crusty, artisian style bread. Especially for sandwiches. So when I got my Dutch oven, I decide to try my hand on baking the adapted version of NY Times’ of Jim Lahey’s of Sullivan Street Bakery recipe. To date, I’ve also tried Alton Brown’s recipe. Ingredients and method are very close between the two. Even Cook’s Illustrated (CI) has an “almost” no-knead bread (that’s next on the list to try). The CI recipe adds lager and vinegar, very interesting and it might provide some very good flavor. CI also has some good information for substituting a heavy stockpot for those who don’t have a Dutch oven.
Since NYT’s and Alton’s recipes are so similar, I won’t double up on the pictures except for the final products. Actually, I forgot to take a picture of NYT dough but as I recall, the initial dough after mixing was a bit more “wetter” than Alton’s but just a tad.
I haven’t been consistent on the exact time for the first resting stage (after mixing all the ingredients) but I always let the dough rest for at least 18 hours and as much as 21 hours. This recipe, or dough rather, is very forgiving. For Alton’s, I did let it sit for about 19 hours.
This is what the dough looked like after being removed from the bowl, punched down, folded under, dusted with corn meal (to prevent sticking). Sorry there’s so much glare in the pictures (now you know why I don’t take a whole lot of pictures). Recommendation here is to use lots of flour and/or cornmeal or wheat bran, especially if you’re using the towel method. I like to use my Exopat (same stuff as a Silpat), works great! I loosely covered it with plastic wrap and then covered with a towel.
Here’s what the dough looked like after 2.5 hours of rising. You can see that it’s doubled in size.
I found that 2 hours just wasn’t enough in my kitchen and it takes about 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours for it to double.
Then baked according to instructions and letting the final product sit for the required amount. It’s important to let the bread sit and cool for the given amount of time to let the crust “settle.” You’ll hear the crust crackle and snap (ah, makes my mouth water). Here’s what the NYT’s bread looked like right out of the oven/DO.
This loaf was Alton Brown’s recipe. Sorry the color is bad in the photo, I forgot to turn off the undercounter light. The Alton’s crust is a bit lighter in color and not as hard. The very first bread I baked using the adapted NYT recipe created a very hard crust, almost too hard to bite through. So lessons learned, I like a lighter crust that’s still crusty but more chewy by adjusting the baking time as 27 minutes covered and then 25 minutes uncovered. You will need to adjust according to your oven and your preference on crust.
As you can see, the result is a wonderfully holey bread that looks like it came from a bakery. The taste is wonderfully rustic. I have not tried adding flavor enhancing ingredients (herbs, cheese, etc.) but have read on food forums that the dough works great with additions. We have enjoyed many paninis using this bread.
At this point, I prefer Alton’s recipe even though the taste is pretty much the same. I don’t know if it’s because I made Alton’s after having more experience with handling the dough but I found it to be a little easier (go figure since they are so close). But I do recommend NYT’s adapted version rather than the original Lahey’s recipe because the taste is much better due to more salt. Lahey’s bread is somewhat flavorless and you should be able to taste a hint of salt in a good rustic bread.
BTW, that knife next to the bread is a Mac Bread Knife and I highly recommend it (even if it wasn’t CI’s first choice but then many people on knife forums don’t agree with CI’s review of bread knives). Also, Korin is having it’s annual summer knife sale through July 31st, 15% off all knives! If you don’t have a good bread knife (a recommended knife staple in any cook’s kitchen), consider picking this one up with the discount. Too bad I’ve promised I wouldn’t buy any more knives for a while (darn).
Now go bake some bread and eat well!