Monday, November 15, 2010

Jim Lahey's Pane Integrale

I bought another bread cookbook last week: My Bread, by Jim Lahey, owner of The Sullivan Street Bakery. I'm afraid to count how many bread books I have. But I use them all--eventually.
Lahey is, of course, the person who, along with Mark Bittman, took the bread-baking world by storm with his no-knead bread. For a while, everyone, including me, was baking no-knead bread. Even non-bread-bakers were baking no-knead bread. I think it's now sort of last year, but it should have a place in every bread-baker's repertoire.
In this book, Lahey talks about his travel and background, and what brought him to baking bread. (No offense intended, but he seems like he's kind of a quirky and difficult-to-get-along-with kind of guy). He keeps mentioning that he quit various jobs because he had disagreements with co-workers. But what would you rather have? One more nice guy or an irascible originator of the Sullivan Street potato pizza? I'll take Mr. Irascible, as long as I don't have to live with him.
The book is a slim volume, with recipes for about a dozen basic breads, a few more breads made with liquids other than water, ten or twelve different pizzas, and as many sandwiches.
I chose the pane integrale, or whole-wheat bread, to start with. Except it's not really whole-wheat; it's bread made with some whole-wheat flour. Which is okay with me, because I usually find bread made with 100% whole-wheat flour too dense, solid, and bitter, the exception being Chris in Rhode Island's whole wheat bread.  To be exact, this bread has 300 grams of bread flour and 100 grams of whole wheat flour. So it could be called Pane 1/4 Integrale, I guess.

If you recall, no-knead bread begins with a quick mix of flour, yeast, salt, and water. That mixture is left by itself to rise for 12 to 16 hours. (In my case, it was ready for the next step at about 9:00 p.m., but I wasn't ready for it, so I put it in the refrigerator.) The next morning, I took it out, and did the next step after the dough got back down to room temperature. Then you scrape the dough onto a floured counter, and pinch the edges together in the center.

And then you shape the dough into a round loaf. After the dough rises on a floured cotton towel for a few hours, comes the part where you simply have to defy logic and experience, not to mention a fear of burning your hands. Get that preheated pot out of the oven, take a deep breath, and turn the risen loaf into the pan. No, the pan doesn't have to be greased or lined with parchment paper or anything else. Cover the pan and put it back in the oven.
About a half-hour later, you can take the lid off and continue baking the bread until it's nice and brown. You want it to be a deep brown, not a wimpy pale color.
Oddly enough, it comes right out of the pan without any coaxing or prying. At least it always has so far, although anything can happen. As Lahey describes it, the bread "sings" when it's removed from the oven and begins to cool. It's more of a crackly sound than a singing sound to me, but singing sounds more poetic.
This is a first-class rustic bread. Although I'm not the world's biggest fan of whole wheat bread, in this case I think the whole wheat flour gives the bread a little depth of flavor that the all-white no-knead bread is lacking. You could try any combination of white and whole wheat that you wanted, as long as the total amount is three cups of flour. There are a number of other variations in the book that sound delicious, and a few that just sound odd (the one made with strained sea water and nori comes to mind). But I'm pretty sure I'll return to this recipe.


evil cake lady said...

now that is a bread i could love! i think i must have the opposite tastes in bread than you--the more dense and wheaty the better. i blame it on all the post-communist black bread i ate.

breadbasketcase said...

I'd love to make that black bread. And maybe eat it with smoked salmon.

Bbq Dude said...

The only bread I ever make these days is from Lahey's book. I find the extra-long fermentations to make an absolutely spectacular flavour.

breadbasketcase said...

I'm still of two minds on this technique. I'm not sure it gets quite the same flavor as some breads with a starter, but I sure like the option of not using the stand mixer.

Goody said...

I'm still in that early stage of bread-love with a new-ish starter. Eventually, I'll shove it in the fridge, but for the moment, I'm baking sourdough exclusively. I do however, use his technique with the Dutch oven to create steam-so simple. yet genius.

Speaking of Dutch ovens-would you like to share the secret to keeping yours so beautiful and white inside? *Hangs head*...I feel like such a terrible housekeeper when I look at my stained, discoloured pot.

breadbasketcase said...

Hi Goody,
My Dutch oven is still newish. Believe me, I have no housekeeping secrets. You should pick up a copy of Lahey's book and see how stained and discolored all the pots are in the pictures--it just means they're used.
My sourdough starter is in the back of my refrigerator, often ignored for far too long, so I admire your sourdough breads.