JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bread - a new take on Jim Lahey's loaf

I've been baking a lot of bread recently. I haven't bought a loaf for a couple of years, and these days my homebaked bread feeds not only the family but also the chickens and the dog. I use a bread machine for days when there isn't the time or inclination to bake by hand; in the winter in this cold house it's the most reliable place to nurture the yeast, so I often use the dough setting and then finish the loaf by hand.

Years ago, I was one of a multitude of bloggers entranced by the New York Times loaf, and this winter I've been reading Jim Lahey's wonderful book explaining how it came about, the journey of a lifetime. And so I've been playing with the core idea of that bread: baking the dough in a hot, covered Le Creuset pan in the oven.

It's the ultimate loaf for beginners: whatever dough you use, the end result is a beautiful boule of bread, a little cracked, full of air

- it even gives rise to a wholemeal loaf made with winter wheat, which normally makes the kind of heavy wholemeal loaf that gives home baking a bad name.

Try it: make your usual dough. After the first rise, shape it loosely into a ball,* dusting liberally with flour or semolina/polenta (it gives it a nice finish, but it also means you can pick it up easily). Leave it to rest while you heat the oven to 220C at least - if your oven will go to 240C, so much the better. Put a Le Creuset pan**** + lid in the oven**. When the oven and the pan are hot hot hot, remove the lid and drop the dough in***. Put the lid back, and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for 10 more minutes. The crust will sing as it cools (on a rack).


* don't worry if the dough is shaggy, don't worry if you can't shape it, the heat of the covered pan will sort all this out
**no need to grease or flour, so long as your loaf has a good dusting of flour or cornmeal, it won't stick
***the dough should be as centrally placed as possible, for a perfectly circular loaf; if you drop it off-centre, you'll get a charmingly lop-sided loaf
****you can apparently also use a Pyrex casserole, but I've never tried this

Things to do with stale or leftover bread

Be warned, these suggestions only work with good bread - useless with supermarket pap!

Herb stuffing for roast chicken
Grilled trout with rosemary stuffing
Baked scallops
Anchovy toasts
Bread sauce

Related posts

Daily bread
Daily bread 2

Six seed rolls
Bread knots - another simple way to make beautiful and delicious rolls, using this dough, or your default dough

Yeast starter for bread - and the bread
make your own sourdough starter

No-knead bread the famous NY Times recipe
Speeded-up no-knead bread and a different take on it

Yoghurt bread fabulous, easy, TRY IT
Quick oat loaf
Spelt bread - it's getting easier to buy this highly-flavoured flour

Anti-oxidant tea bread - I made this for my husband for a pre-surgery boost - delicious, too!

Yeast conversion - fresh/dried/quick
Oven temperature conversions - Centigrade, Fahrenheit, gas mark, descriptive

Useful links

Susan at Farmgirl Fare has just updated her very good post of tips for better baking

She's one of the contributors to A Year in Bread, which is a very useful resource for anyone interesting in baking

Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups has been an inspiration to my baking, although our paths don't cross so much these days ... try her cornbread


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

But I still come by!
Like the part to use the stale bread ... when you bake all your bread with too much passion (more than you can eat) that stale thing happens.

Joanna said...

Hey, Tanna, lovely to hear from you ... yes, sometimes the need to bake is greater than the speed at which we can eat or give it away, especially when you're trying to perfect a loaf ... but, actually, I find these stale bread recipes amongst my favourite things to eat, especially the stuffing for the trout, which I don't do often enough


Robert Newman said...

Good to see you posting again! Great article. Not much of a baker myself, but just may give this a go. Regards, Rob

thenewstead6 said...

I need to give this a try! I've recently converted to using the idea from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book, with fresh bread every day from the dough stored for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Joanna said...

Thank you for kind words, Robert ... this bread is the one that got me hooked, as up til then I'd really only made heavy bread that made your heart sink, which my family was polite about but didn't much enjoy (they're a loyal lot!). Once I'd got to grips with this, I got hooked

Newstead6: I've made the artisan-in-five a couple of times (great website, too), and don't know why I don't do it more often because it's a good and easy way to bake. And that dough would lend itself well to being baked in a Le Creuset, which would take even more of the effort out of things, because you really don't need to shape the dough, just drop it into the pan after a little rest

Good luck - and let me know how you get on


Massimo said...

The very same idea can be found in the wonderful English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elisabeth David.