From the New York Times online:
November 21, 2007
Soon the Bread Will Be Making Itself
By NICK FOX
I THOUGHT the Dining section published the easiest bread recipe possible last year when Mark Bittman wrote about the no-knead approach of Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery.
The response to Mr. Bittman's article was so fervid you would have thought he'd revealed a foolproof way to pick winning lottery numbers. It was a sign of how desperately people want to bake at home, and how painfully aware they are of their limitations.
The method he wrote about, though, looks like molecular gastronomy next to the one developed by Jeff Hertzberg, a physician from Minneapolis. His technique is more or less as streamlined as this: Mix flour, salt, yeast and water. Let it sit a bit, refrigerate it, take some out and let it rise, then bake it.
The crusty, full-flavored loaf that results may be the world's easiest yeast bread.
Dr. Hertzberg elaborates on his recipe in the recently released book ''Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day'' (Thomas Dunne Books), written with Zoë François, a pastry chef from Minneapolis.
The key to both of these no-knead methods is a lot of liquid: maybe 30 to 50 percent more than recipes that require kneading. The extra water dilutes the gluten, the protein that creates the latticework for any dough, which makes it easier for the bubbles in the dough to inflate.
But Mr. Lahey's recipe, which calls for a minute amount of yeast, requires fermentation for as long as 18 hours or more. It also results in a very loose dough that can be difficult to handle and must be baked in a pot to hold its shape.
With standard levels of yeast, Dr. Hertzberg's dough rises more quickly and forms easily into a loaf that can be baked in a pan or on a hot stone.
You can refrigerate a four-loaf batch of dough, or even an eight-loaf batch, for as long as two weeks, cut off a piece when you want to bake it, and it's ready to eat in about two hours.
The active working time for the recipe -- not counting the hours spent waiting for the dough to rest, rise or bake -- divided by the four loaves gives you the five minutes in the book's title. Or so say the authors. Suffice it to say it's easy and lets you have fresh bread for turkey sandwiches, or a pizza on the spur of the moment.
Refrigerating bread dough is not a new idea. Neither is wet, no-knead bread. Dr. Hertzberg has just put it all together in an unusually easy, reliable way. The book's master recipe, a bite-size version of which is presented here, makes a simple crusty boule. But the book includes a number of other recipes, including a whole-wheat sandwich loaf as tender as any I've bought, several doughs that made great pizza and a rich, delicate brioche loaf.
Dr. Hertzberg developed his technique by trial and error.
''It was kind of a laziness in some sense,'' he said in an interview. ''I was baking bread to blow off steam and I tried to omit steps.''
That's a good thing for the average cook. With the hands of a practiced baker, kneading, long rises, multiple rises and sourdough starters produce complex breads of great variety. For most people they produce frustration. That, Dr. Hertzberg said, keeps many people from baking bread.
''Don't introduce this element of mysteriousness that makes it difficult for people,'' he said.
Recipe: Simple Crusty Bread Adapted from ''Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,'' by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007) Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours' resting and rising
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.
4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.
Yield: 4 loaves.
Variation: If not using stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Let rest 40 minutes if fresh, an extra hour if refrigerated. Heat oven to 450 degrees for 5 minutes. Place pan on middle rack.