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Any New Yorker who eats bread has most likely tried some of the magical edible stuff that Jim Lahey produces at Sullivan Street Bakery or at Co., his newer (awesome) pizza venture (to which we've given plenty of thought).
Over the last few weeks, through meticulous scientific investigation, I think I've finally discovered the true secret to getting bread as good as Lahey's on a completely, 100% consistent basis. Step one: get Jim Lahey to make it.
Ok, ok. So I admit, it's not a particularly practical method, and my sample pool here was one. That said, when Mark Bittman and Jim Lahey dropped the No Knead Bread recipe on the world back in 2006, with a single short youtube video, they did more to improve home baking than perhaps any other single event in history. I know that I've personally never looked back. (See my own explanation of the science here).
Lahey's first book, My Bread, was all about the no knead method. The way you do it? Just mix flour, salt, and yeast, add water, stir it all together, then let it sit in a covered bowl for 8 or 9 hours. Over the course of this long fermentation, enzymes break down large flour proteins into smaller segments that can then quite easily be cross-linked into stretchy sheets of gluten. You wind up with a dough that stretches as if it had been perfectly kneaded, without any of the oxidation that occurs with actual kneading.
The result? Perfectly textured bread with next to no work.
Today Lahey releases his new book My Pizza ($27.95), which promises to do for pizza what My Bread did for bread. It's largely based on his no-knead dough, with dozens of recipes for topping combinations that are tomato-based, white sauce based, and completely sauceless. You'll find most of the pies from Co. within its pages.
If there's one thing any home pizza maker can tell you, it's that its nearly impossible to get the same bubbly, crisp, charring that you get from a real-deal wood fired Neapolitan pizza oven. Check out the video above as Jim Lahey shows us that not only is it possible, it's actually pretty damn easy to do. Then follow his no knead pizza dough recipe and start whipping incredible pies out of your own oven.
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