Interview with Jim Lahey, Mr. No Knead Bread
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that No Knead Bread has been my biggest cooking revolution in the last two years or so. I make a loaf a week and thanks to Jim Lahey’s new book, “My Bread“, I have a bunch of variations to try out now. (ex. Olive Bread)
I was lucky enough to get a few minutes of Mr. Lahey’s eTime last week and I asked him a few questions.
Q & A with Jim Lahey, Founder of Sullivan St. Bakery
You get into this a bit in your latest book, but when did you decide to devote your life to baking bread?
Jim: It happened spontaneously. The idea to make a career of baking came to me in the early 1990’s when living in Williamsburg.
Why is it important to you that people hear and learn that bread can be simple to make and delicious? What is it about bread?
Bread is part of our cultural and social fabric. For better or worse it has been part of western civilization for over 4,000 years. I was hoping to jump start a new kind of period of interest and perhaps create a serious bread culture in our country.
Note: I think he’s doing a pretty solid job of this…
I get occasional emails asking if the bread you write about requires a large heavy (cast iron or enamel) pot (Also a less expensive one with great great ratings here). I’ve experimented, but what do you recommend the home baker use if they don’t have one of the heavy-duty pots? Is it even worth the time?
You could use a glass deep casserole dish although I would suggest baking with ceramic as it retains and transfers the heat better.
Note: I’ve tried a few alternatives also. Nothing really works quite as well as the cast iron pot, but it’s all better than store bought bread.
What’s your current favorite loaf of bread from “My Bread“?
The banana leaf bread. It can be eaten for breakfast as well as with dinner. I also like the whole wheat.
There are still thousands of home bakers and professionals who are kneading and mixing away every day. Do you ever knead any bread you make? Are there any recipes/situations where kneading is necessary?
Kneading is simply a different approach which creates results that are in some ways more reliable however without understanding fermentation, kneading or not kneading makes no difference. Without understanding fermentation you will never be able to control the end result. That being said, what the no-knead method introduces to people is a long slow fermentation and that is what most people seem to miss when it comes to understanding why bread is the way it is.
Any aspirations for opening a bakery in DC? Please?
I love DC. It is one of America’s most beautiful cities. But of course I have a preference for New York. If I receive enough fan mail, I would be honored to bake bread in our nation’s capital.
Note: You can contact his bakery here. There’s no Sullivan St. that I know of in DC, but I see no reason why we shouldn’t have a bakery called that…
Are you working on any secret projects to simplify other complicated things? No-knead pasta?
Note: Short and secretive! My mind is swimming with ideas. No-stir stir fry?! No-mash mashed potatoes? Ok. I’ll stop.
Thanks for taking the time answer some these questions Jim!
If you have any interest in baking your own bread, Jim’s new book is a great place to start.