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Bittman bread/Lahey Loaf--pix and questions

rose water Jan 4, 2007 08:28 PM

Okay, so I have a good job. I'm a heart-bleeding, saving the world kind of gal. And I have a good life. But nothing has given me more of a sense of accomplishment in the past couple weeks than baking this bread. I am so excited that I can make bread so crusty and tasty and pretty. It's gorgeous! Look: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rose_wat...
And I made that!

The cool thing about this bread (besides the shatteringly crisp crust, and how tasty it is, and how gorgeous it is, and the sense of accomplishment, and its overall majestic greatness) is its simplicity. It takes virtually no active prep time, and very few ingredients.

In case you have managed to not be swept up in this, the original recipe is:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/din...

The modifications I've made:
-- Increase salt to about 2 teaspoons
-- One cup whole wheat flour and two cups all purpose
-- One and half cups of water (as they mention on the video, in contrast to the printed recipe, which calls for 1 5/8
)-- Put floured saran wrap on the towel for the second rise. (Even with a very well floured cotton towel, this very wet dough sticks to the towel otherwise)
--Dust the bottom with corn meal or wheat bran (the bran is tastiest)

My favorite variation has been to add 1⁄2 cup of kalamata olives, about 2 tbsp fresh rosemary and a tablespoon of dry thyme, which I do right at the beginning. They distribute pretty well, and gravity doesn't suck them down.

Be sure to watch the video, which you can find at:
http://video.on.nytimes.com/ifr_main....

In case that link doesn’t work, you can access the
video through a link on the side of the article here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/din...

My questions are:
1. What other variations have you tried? I've tried dried cranberries and walnuts--okay, but not great. I've also been thinking about sourdough and dark chocolate.
2. Who can direct me through the very basics of sourdough?
3. People have talked about the dough springing up in the oven. Mine doesn't. I'm using a 6.5 quart pot (I think) and have had generally flat/wide results. I tried a second rise in a small bowl, which resulted in a taller boule, without much of a change in texture/flavor. Other ideas?

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  1. IndyGirl RE: rose water Jan 4, 2007 08:30 PM

    how gorgeous! I've heard about this phenomenon but haven't had time to try it. Looks like I better get to it this weekend. LOL

    1. h
      Hungry Celeste RE: rose water Jan 4, 2007 08:31 PM

      I've made it, it was fun, but the bread looked better than it tasted. So now I'm trying to create a wild-yeast starter...so my bread will look good AND taste good, too.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Hungry Celeste
        rose water RE: Hungry Celeste Jan 4, 2007 08:44 PM

        I think that's where the herbs and olives help. My plain loaf, and the one with cranberries and walnuts were the least tasty by far.

        1. re: rose water
          h
          Hungry Celeste RE: rose water Jan 4, 2007 08:58 PM

          Yeah, add-ins are okay, but it didn't have the "bready" flavor that I really look for in a loaf. So it outwardly appeared to be an artisanal loaf, but the taste was "eh".

      2. e
        Ellen RE: rose water Jan 4, 2007 09:00 PM

        I made it the first time using the 2/1 bread/wheat flour ratio in a covered cast iron dutch oven. It came out beautifully but had little taste, although it was actually better the next day as toast. I was going to give it one more try and up the salt so I'm glad to see you've come to the same conclusion. I also agree that the addition of herbs and olives would add flavor and depth to this loaf. If you use a linen towel it will not stick like a cotton towel will.

        1. heatherkay RE: rose water Jan 4, 2007 09:37 PM

          I used a mix of dried rosemary, sage, and thyme for a really tasty herb bread. Smelled fantastic when cooling. Not really sure how much I used, but enough that it made the crumb look flecked.

          Also, I've abandoned the towel and started using a floured silpat. Rolled out perfectly. I understand that part of the problem with the towel is condensation soaking through the flour. Maybe raising the towel up on a rack would take care of part of it.

          7 Replies
          1. re: heatherkay
            beetlebug RE: heatherkay Jan 4, 2007 10:33 PM

            I started putting my floured towel on a rack. No more sticking problems.

            1. re: beetlebug
              rose water RE: beetlebug Jan 5, 2007 04:28 PM

              I am insufficiently caffeinated today, and can't visualize what you're describing, and why that would help. Could you explain more? Thanks.

              1. re: rose water
                beetlebug RE: rose water Jan 5, 2007 05:27 PM

                Sure, I realized that my response was a bit terse.

                I put the dough (for the second rise) in the floured towel, per the instructions. Then I set the towel on top of a wire rack. The wire rack is what I use to cool off my baked goods, I guess it's a cooling rack? Regardless, the floured towel is not sitting directly on the counter, instead there is air flow below it.

                I don't know why it doesn't stick this way, must be the air circulation underneath the towel? I know prior to this method, my second rise stuck like crazy.

                1. re: beetlebug
                  heatherkay RE: beetlebug Jan 5, 2007 06:01 PM

                  Me, too. I think I was exacerbating the problem by putting the towel and rising loaf on a plastic cutting board (so I could move it around the kitchen). The condensation soaked right through the flour. I didn't have a problem the first time I made the bread, when the loaf was sitting on a wooden board. But now that I'm using the silpat, I probably won't go back to the towel.

                  1. re: heatherkay
                    rose water RE: heatherkay Jan 5, 2007 06:08 PM

                    Ah, got it. Interesting that that works, good to know. Thank you both.

                    1. re: heatherkay
                      beetlebug RE: heatherkay Jan 5, 2007 06:13 PM

                      I keep both my rises in the microwave. This way, it is not in my way AND it stays a bit warmer than my kitchen. But, I also put a giant sticky note on the microwave to remind C and me of its presence.

                2. re: beetlebug
                  rose water RE: beetlebug Jan 16, 2007 12:57 AM

                  tried your rack method today, and still had a lot of dough that refused to extricate itself from the floured towel. oh well.

                  but, i scooped up that recalcitrant bit, added in ancient chocolate chips hidden in the recesses of my kitchen cabinet, and baked it separately...and it was delicious! i look forward to making a dedicated chocolate chip loaf.

              2. SilverlakeGirl RE: rose water Jan 5, 2007 04:39 PM

                I followed the recipe and had the same results as most people ... the loaf was stunning to look at. Great crust.

                However, the leftovers did not fare particularly well. The crust completely lost it's crunch. And the flavor, even on day one was not the best bread I'd ever made.

                However, for a splash with guests arriving, I'd make it again.

                1. h
                  huruta RE: rose water Jan 6, 2007 12:26 AM

                  I've made it 5 times. The best by far is the one I made where I actually weighed out the ingredients per Bittman's follow-up article in the NY Times a few weeks ago. I baked it in a 3.5 qt clay pot with lid and it rose beautifully, had the perfect exterior and interior. I'm definitely going to weigh it every time!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: huruta
                    bengoshi RE: huruta Jan 6, 2007 01:45 AM

                    I went to the King Arthur Arthur Flour website and went _wild_ ordering a number of their excellent artisinal flours and additions. Here are some great products that make a great loaf even better:

                    European-Style Artisan Bread Flour
                    http://kingarthurflour.com/shop/detai...

                    Sir Lancelot High Gluten Flour (Highest Gluten Flour available
                    )http://kingarthurflour.com/shop/detai...

                    French Style Flour (Use recipe to make baguettes!
                    )http://kingarthurflour.com/shop/detai...

                    LA-2 Pain de Campagne Starter (From France - Make real Pain de Campagne
                    )http://kingarthurflour.com/shop/detai...

                    Heidelberg Rye Sour ("Why can't you get your rye bread to taste JUST RIGHT?! Try our Heidelberg Rye Sour powder!"
                    )http://kingarthurflour.com/shop/detai...

                    The standard King Arthur Bread, Whole Wheat and Rye Flours are also awesome. I am a "cook not a baker" but I had a blast trying all of those and need to replinish already.

                    I want to try the Italian Flour and other additives and additons on the KA site. That recipe rocks.

                  2. rosielucchesini RE: rose water Jan 6, 2007 02:22 PM

                    Rosewater, I SO KNOW what you mean by sense of accomplishment w/regards to this bread. Something that looks and tastes so divine should not be this easy, esp. for someone like myself who isn't much of a baker.
                    Thanks for the post of your recipe-I will be trying my hand at this very soon!

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