written by Mei Chin
(Re)consider the loaf. This is what Jim Lahey asks us to do, over and over again, in his new book: My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method. Recipes based around his no-knead bread, first made famous in Mark Bittman’s “The Minimalist” column in The New York Times in 2006, definitively prove that anyone, anyone, can make a good loaf of bread at home. All it takes, he writes, is “about 5 minutes of actual labor, followed by 12 to 18 hours in which the bread rises, developing structure and flavor on autopilot, and then another short rising time, and, finally, the brief baking in a covered pot.” Simple, indeed.
Lahey takes us through his career as a baker, starting with his collegiate days as an art student, making his first loaf as a gift for his girlfriend. Noting the similarities between sculpture and baking, Lahey discovered a passion that would take him to Italy and back, and left him understanding what bread can mean, and what a good loaf could possibly be. Eventually, while working on a request from Chef Cesare Casella, of the Italian Culinary Academy, for bread made in the style of ancient Rome, Lahey improvised his now famous recipe, and has made it ever since.
Recipes in My Bread are accessible and well-written for both neophytes and experienced bakers. All measurements are given in measured and weighted amounts, with clear instructions and pictures that demonstrate each step. Besides Lahey’s basic loaf, there are also sweet and savory breads, a section on pizza, and an homage to the perfect sandwich.