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One more thing about Bittman's bread - Rose Levy Beranbaum's take on it

  • s

Rose Levy Beranbaum, a.k.a. author of The Bread Bible, has also tested this recipe and has a few suggestions and things to say about the bread. Among them being that she thinks you could just bake the loaf on a hot pizza stone on a piece of parchement. She also noticed that there is an extra 2 tablespoons of water in the printed recipe versus the 1 1/2 cups of water used as shown in the video.


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  1. I noticed the increase in water as well. I think 1.5 cups water is better. The extra water has led to reports of stickiness/gumminess.

    1. I think RLB is losing context in her dismissal of the pot. The reason the pot works for most folks is because handling such a tacky dough on a peel is not easy for unskilled hands. And using the pot to contain the humidity created by the moist dough is a brilliant shortcut. Those two reasons are vital for the average home baker, and I think RLB lost sight of that with her expertise.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        I think you may have missed the note of turning it onto a piece of parchment. With parchment, it's not really that much more difficult than the pot method.

        1. re: duckduck

          But the reason for the pot is the CRUST. I've never gotten a crust like this before at home, and I've used pizza stones, quarry tiles, spritzed water, etc. The pot does something that baking it on a stone doesn't do. According to me, Bittman and Lahey.

          1. re: oakjoan

            Exactly. And that was the point that Bittman made in the first place. I seem to remember that in his article, he prefaced the recipe by saying that the pot method, in his experience, works better than the stone, ice cubes, spritzing, and other steam-producing methods for making the best crust.

            RLB simply says, "ok yes, the recipe works, but I'm sticking to my version." She gets it, but she's not entirely impressed.

      2. Now I'm confuzzed--I thought the wet dough and the covered hot pot were both meant to create steam, which makes a nice crust.
        The long-time rise, which allows one to use very little yeast, is to create good flavor and avoid kneading.
        It sounds like Rose B. is making a somewhat different kind of bread.
        Her article mentions also (APART from this bread) a new heated, steam producing lid that she likes. Also, she shows the same recipe using weight instead of measurements.

        1. I agree with past comments that RLB does not understand that the pot creates a mini-steam oven. The high hydration combined with the very hot environment creates a lot of steam which is why the crust turns out so well. Baking on parchment on top of heated stones doesn't work as well.

          The recipe is similar to one I've used many times for ciabatta. I found Lahey's formula comparable in hydration to the ciabatta bread, but I always struggled with keeping the ciabatta dough from spreading laterally. The wet, heavy dough tends to seep outwards. Adding more flour will give it more structure but that works against the beautiful holey interior of the bread and the crisp crust. And baking the ciabatta was hazardous because I had to open the oven every 10 minutes or so to spray the loaf. I used parchment and hot stones and never got the crust as crisp as Lahey's recipe does. Using the pre-heated pot avoids all these problems. I think it's absolutely brilliant.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cheryl_h

            I agree. I think the modification of the water and the recommendation of the bran over the cornmeal or flour* are plusses. Otherwise, I would ignore the overengineering suggested as fundamentally not getting the point.

            * I suspected flour was not a good approach and used cornmeal first (having bran for my next batch). The cornmeal worked fine but I believe the bran would be better overall, and RLB confirmed my instinct here. The slight lessening of water makes sense because I found my dusting to work with the dough needed more than I would have liked in order to make it workable.

            1. re: Karl S

              I used rice flour instead of flour and had some sticking problems. But I didn't use a towel, I used parchment below and saran wrap sprayed with baking spray on top. The dough stuck to the parchment which I had dusted with rice flour. Perhaps the towel absorbs some of the excess moisture?

          2. RLB didn't miss the point of the pot. What she suggested for steam with the parchment and baking stone method was tossing ice cubes, when you put your bread in, into a cast iron pan that is preheated in the oven. I've seen the technique mentioned before. I for one, don't own a Le Creuset and the baking stone with parchment and ice cubes is a good alternative.

            5 Replies
            1. re: duckduck

              YEs, she did, but the whole point of the pot (as Bittman explains in his article) is to improve on that technique, which technique also compromises the stability of oven temperature. For the average home oven, the pot is better.

              1. re: Karl S

                Using the pot is also less fussy and overcomplicated. I guess her technique is a good workaround if you don't have suitable pot, though.

              2. re: duckduck

                You don't need a Le Creuset. Folks have used Lodge cast iron pots, ceramic pots and probably others. Check out the earlier 10,000 posts about this and you'll see all the different vessels described.

                  1. re: yayadave

                    No! Now it's 10,001! Oops! 10,002. Rotfl.

              3. I read the recipe while flying back to China from the US last Wednesday, and went out Friday morning to buy a suitable pot to bake the bread in. The bread I made came out stupendously, despite a few handling problems on my part (I found the shaping a bit iffy after the 18-hour rise, but you could not tell from the finished product). I now plan to make two of these loaves tonight to use for stuffing next week with my turkey. Thanks, Mark!!

                1. You may want to use the Google blog search on this bread. I did extensively last night.

                  Some blogger baked side-by-side recipes of the Bittman bread in the pot and one on a stone. HUGE difference in crust and crumb. I beleiev the pot is a very important element.

                  Some, however used a bread cloche [sp] with success.

                  1. I've tried it twice now, once with cornmeal on the towel, and once with flour. The cornmeal worked better. With the flour, the dough stuck to the towel. Both times the kitchen was a mess from getting the dough into the cast iron pot. Flour everywhere! Crust was good, but not that different from my more 'normal' breads.

                    1. a couple more comments on the use of a pot for baking this bread:
                      1. I have NEVER produced bread with such beautiful crust and crumb. I am in awe of this recipe's simplicity and results.
                      2. I first used my Le Creuset pot-- though when I preheated at 450, the most horrible smell emanated from the kitchen! It was the plastic handle on the pot's top, which must only be heat- proof to a certain temperature. Did anyone else have this problem? Funny it wasn't mentioned, since the article's picture showed the Le Creuset pot! Found a screwdriver and removed the handle; no problems after that, wonderful results.
                      3. then on a lark I retrieved the Schlemmertopf clay pot given to me by my mom years ago during my roast chicken phase. One of those kitchen items that's used enthusiastically for a while, then gathers dust for years. This produced even better results in my non-scientific trials-- beautiful shape, even loftier than the loaves from the Le Creuset. Do any of you happen to own one of these?

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: lodgegirl

                        I used my Le Creuset pot with handle as is and had no problem any time I've made this recipe, (can't believe I'm making bread every week now). Maybe your oven is running hot? Or perhaps your oven's heat source, (if it's electric it may be at the top of the oven), is too close to the handle?

                        1. re: lodgegirl

                          Not a Schemmertopf, but I use a Superstone oblong baker. It's about 14 inches long and makes a loaf that's perfect for small sandwiches.

                          1. re: lodgegirl

                            OOOH OOOH OOOH, Lodgegirl! I have two of those Romertopf pots and haven't yet used them for the bread. Great report (altho my L.C. pot has a handle on top that didn't do anything bad or scary like that, thank goodness.

                            BTW, did you soak your Romertopf for 15 minutes in water as directed?

                            1. re: lodgegirl


                              I use a Schlemmertopf, but the bread looks nice outside. It doesn't cook inside. How long are your cooking time.

                            2. lodgegirl, if you are going to use your Le Creuset again, just wrap the handle in foil. It worked well for me.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: tartetatin

                                Better still, just unscrew it and plug it with foil. The bottom of the knob will start to soften at 450F, and it's not worth it.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  Yes, my knob started melting at 450, so it's probably best to cover the knob w/tin foil or remove if you're going to be baking this bread.

                                  1. re: nicolars

                                    Wow, either my oven is cooler than indicated or my Le Creuset casserole pan has an older, sturdier handle. Since my bread comes out fine, I'd guess the later. Pot's 15-20 years old.

                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                      Le creuset says the handles are only safe until 375 degrees. If you look carefully at the video, it looks like there is a piece of string coming out of the top of the le creuset lid. Has anyone noticed this?