It’s fair to say that I was an early and enthusiastic adopter of Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread, hymning its pleasures a week or so after the original article appeared in the New York Times. It is also fair to say that since I re-applied myself to serious bread-baking, which I suppose was about three years ago now, I more or less gave up on no knead. There was no need. 1
This past weekend I was with a friend who had brought Jim Lahey's book back from a recent trip to the US. A yummy enough read, and beguiling too in its promises of many bread heavens with hardly any work. Well, why not give it another go? And the result was very disappointing. Just as hard to work, and great gummy lodes running through the loaf. It tasted good enough, but I can do better now, consistently, with a few French folds instead of kneading and no-kneading.
No-knead does have one great advantage, and that is its timeline. You can mix the dough before bedtime and not have to do anything to it before the final rise and bake the following evening. As my circumstances have changed a little lately, I no longer have the luxury of being able to take a quick break from work and pop into the kitchen to see to my bread. That means baking is currently confined to weekends. I’m sure I could crack this, by retarding some of the fermentation in the fridge, but right now it isn’t a priority. And homemade bread, especially with natural leavens, keeps so well that a weekly bake isn’t such a big deal.
2021-09-08: Just to set the record straight, while Lahey and Bittman claim Lahey invented no-knead bread, and Bittman claimedd to have coined the phrase, that honour goes to Suzanne Dunaway, who I am proud now to call a friend. See No-Knead Bread Recipe: Who Really Invented It? for some well-researched history.
Irresistible. Sorry. ↩