Daily Bread: The Delectable, No-Knead Lahey Method


Homemade loaf

Daily bread. Few two words evoke such primal survival instincts, elicit universal ties to humanity or just make your mouth water, depending on who you are. They might conjure spiritual stirrings, bringing to mind the staff of life. You might recall your grandmother in the kitchen or salivate at the mere thought of your local bakery. For some the institution of bread and its associated rituals runs deep in their lives while for others, it is just another carb.

Around the globe and across time, most cultures have eaten a version of this staple to the extent that their bread has become part of their cultural identity. For many, this part of the meal is as integral as, yes, water. On the contrary, most Americans lack any semblance of reverence for the lovely loaf. Until I discovered The Lahey Method recently, I was like most Americans.

What is the Lahey Method of Bread Baking?

My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey (published by W.W. Norton & Company) offered such an easy process of making bread that I couldn’t resist giving it a try. It especially appealed to me since my chronic wrist tendonitis takes kneading - and all of its related baked goods - off of my kitchen “to-do” list. Instead of all of the aerobic effort required by kneading, this method takes time and a little forethought. If you can manage those, you’ll be richly rewarded with surprisingly tasty loaves.

Mind you, I’ve had inklings of how enriching it can be to incorporate bread into your diet. We even tried growing wheat at the farm to make our own flour. When the ripe harvest of winter wheat was picked clean kernel by kernel by marauding deer and turkey, I rethought the romantic notion of crop-to-table. I’ve also had the privilege of glimpsing the paramount place bread can hold culturally. When I lived in France, bakeries brimmed with lively conversation as lines spilled out doors at day’s end when 9-to-5ers popped in for their daily loaf en route home to dinner. Baguettes along with traditional loaves of all shapes and sizes were snatched up with enthusiasm.

Back at home we have a renowned chef in our family, John Pisto of Monterey, California, who gifted my boyfriend the aforementioned cookbook which has enriched our meals with the staple that was missing from our menu. As Jim Lahey puts it, Good bread should be a masterpiece of contrast, crackling as you bite through the browned, malty-smelly crust, then deeply satisfying as you get to the meaty, chewy crumb with its distinct wheaten, slightly acidic taste. If that sounds appetizing to you, by all means try his method. Even loaves that I thought would be failures - when my attempts at following his steps strayed from his approach - yielded bread fitting his lofty description if I just kept going and got the loaf into the oven.

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