February 13, 2011

Stecca - Jim Lahey's little baguettes

I used to be afraid of making bread, despite years of baking quick breads, cakes and cookies. The prospect of baking with yeast filled me with anxiety - what if the bread didn't rise? What if it just didn't taste right? I think the idea of working with a living organism was a tiny bit intimidating, to say the least.

Jim Lahey, via Mark Bittman, was the baker whose methods helped me lose my fear of working with yeast and making real bread. Now I've a convert and race through bags of flour and countless sachets of yeast. From pizzas to cinnamon rolls, Jim Lahey has opened up a whole new world of baking for me.

This is one of his easier no-knead bread recipes. As it's a essentially a small, flatter baguette with simple toppings, almost a cross between puffy breadstick and focaccia, there's much less anxiety about having the bread rise to the towering magnificence of the boule (round country loaf).

You can find the recipe at the blog Steamy Kitchen, which is where I first found the recipe. I've now bought Jim Lahey's My Bread book, which is the original source.

It makes an amazing country-style baguette (or giant breadstick, I guess you could call it) and is a good recipe to try if you're a relative beginner (like me) to baking with yeast. Actually it's good even if you are experienced with yeast, as it's an easy and tasty crusty bread that looks quite impressive and will awe your friends/family while the effort involved is quite minimal. Time does all the work for you.

PS As Jaden on Steamy Kitchen noted, this baguette might go soft relatively quickly after baking due to the sea salt and olive oil on top. To crisp it back up, put it in a toaster oven for 5-10 minutes. Perfect!

Here's the dough after the first rise.

Here's the dough on the baking sheet after the second rise, shaping, and adding toppings and olive oil.

Here's the dough after it comes out of the oven. The top one is garlic; the bottom is cherry tomato. Both are sprinkled with Maldon sea salt.

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