Wonder Breads

The saga of the no-knead bread continues. A week after Mark Bittman waxed rhapsodic over a slow-rise method of foolproof bread-making touted by Sullivan Street Bakery owner Jim Lahey, the blogosphere is still buzzing over the results.

This simple little four-ingredient recipe has become a must try, with bloggers around the world posting their results—which are almost uniformly fabulous, much to even their posters’ surprise. And even if the bread’s not speedy, blogging is: Bread Bible expert Rose Levy Bernbaum got a long post, complete with bread-geek commentary about hydration percentages, up on her site just three days after the Times piece ran (no small feat, given that one loaf takes a good 22 hours or so from start to finish). Like many of the amateur bakers, she noted the small but crucial differences between the paper’s printed recipe and the how-to video.

So far, the video version, which uses slightly less water, is winning. Other evolutions including upping the salt by half a teaspoon, which definitely boosts the flavor of the finished loaf, as does subbing in one cup of whole wheat or other whole-grain flour. Other smart ideas: using rice flour (which won’t get gummy and sticky like wheat flour) on the towel for the final rise, and skipping the final 15- to 30-minute lid-off bake, since too much time in such a hot oven can lead to a burned bottom crust.

Overall, though, it seems like Bittman’s claim that this bread can’t be screwed up is true. (When the suggestions above were followed, a second batch came out much better than the first for this reporter.) As Lindy at food blog Toast writes,

This bread is ridiculously great. I’m floored. The crust is truly thin and crackling, the crumb is all wheaty tasty and just slightly chewy. And it is soooosimple. I may be making this bread every weekend—like, forever?