This Bread Book will Change Your (Baking) Life

Over the years I have acquired a substantial collection of classic bread baking books (like Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and Whole Grain Breads, Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Bread Bible, and Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery). I have tested recipes here and there but they all seem to require a large investment of time to master, time I don’t want to invest for something that we need to limit our consumption of.

Then I got a copy of Jim Lahey’s, My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method. This was the first time I attempted any type of home made bread baking beyond my weekly challah. My first try was good. The second time was amazing (I used a kitchen scale). I now bake this bread for Shabbat more then I do my challah.

What attracts me to Lahey’s book as opposed to many of the other no-knead bread books on the shelves is the long fermentation time (about 18 hours) and the high hydration of the dough which resembles a more traditional method of baking and helps reduce enzyme inhibitors present in grains.

This is the book that finally gave me the courage to attempt sourdough baking (though his book does not explore this). Sourdough breads require a long fermentation time so Lahey’s method was easy to adapt. His recipe uses only 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. I replaced that with 1/4 cup of sourdough starter and yielded a wonderful sourdough artisan bread.  I also baked a no-knead, 100% sprouted grain bread in a loaf pan that worked well as a sandwich bread.

Some useful tips if you decide to take the plunge to no-knead baking.

1. Use a kitchen scale for the best results. (Mine improved dramatically when I used the proper measurements).

2. The Breadtopia website has a video demonstration for the Basic No Knead Method that gives some tips for the folding (as opposed to kneading) technique and some troubleshooting tips (there is also a video demo for the sourdough version).

3. Lahey reccommends a dutch oven or similar covered pot for his basic bread (a Lodge Logic Dutch Oven or the lighter weight Emile Henry Round Stewpot).

For sourdough and 100% whole grain breads you may consider using a rectangular shape covered baker like the Sassafras Superstone. A loaf pan works great for a no-knead whole grain sandwich bread.  These options will give the dough more support and a better rise. I have read good things about the Romertopf Clay Baker as well for no-knead breads.

4. I also recommend Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day where he simplifies his techniques from previous books. Reinhart provides a greater variety of recipes then Lahey’s book; from simple french breads, whole grain and sourdough breads to desserts. It includes a section on creating your own sourdough starter. I have started to incorporate both Reinhart’s and Lahey’s simplified techniques to my baking.

I’m not so sure I’ll be dusting off my other bread books anytime soon.

Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery Website.

Mark Bittman popularized Lahey’s method in the New York Times article; The Secret to Great Bread: Let Time do the Work.

Read more about soaking grains and enzyme inhibitors at the Weston A. Price website; Be Kind to Your Grains…And Your Grains Will be Kind to You.

This post is linked to The Healthy Home Economist | Monday Mania, GNOWFGLINS | Tuesday Twister, A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa | Two for Tuesdays, Kelly the Kitchen Kop | Real Food Wednesday, and The Nourishing Gourmet | Pennywise Platter Thursday.

Do you have a favorite bread book? Have you tried the no-knead method?

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  1. says

    Isn’t this a great book! I checked it out from the library recently…and I totally want to get myself a copy. Have you checked out Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day or Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a day by Herztberg & Francois…more great no-knead method! Your bread looks fabulous, thank you for sharing this post with Two for Tuesdays this week!

  2. lisa says

    I have the Artisan in 5 Book but have not experimented with it much. I like the flexibility of creating a few kinds of breads at one time instead of making a big batch and trying to use it up.
    I perused the Healthy Bread in 5 at the bookstore but didn’t like the addition of vital wheat gluten for many of the recipes.

  3. says

    hello, this recipe sounds great, something I would try, I will have to take a look at the book. we make challah weekly as well and have lately been making it with olives and many herbs. Thank you for sharing!

    p.s. we are a torah observant family are you?)

  4. says

    Hi Lisa! Thanks so much for linking to the two for tuesday recipe blog hop! I JUST got a new lodge dutch oven and I am looking for a good no-knead recipe cause my classic sourdough is so time intensive…definitely on the must do list as soon as my pot is completely seasoned! :) Alex@amoderatelife

  5. says

    I love that Lahey’s book rented it from the library and could not give it back had to buy it. Love that they have sandwich and meat section in it too.

  6. says

    Thank you Lisa. I have another question, how does Mr. Lahey’s book compare to Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois’ book ‘Artisan Bread in Five Minutes?

    • lisa says

      I haven’t tried out recipes in “Artisan in 5” yet. Their basic concept is to keep a big batch of dough in the fridge and remove a handful or more as needed when you want freshly baked bread. I wanted more flexibility to experiment with different kind of doughs (sprouted wheat, spelt, etc) , and also was just starting to learn how to bake with sourdough so ended up using Lahey’s book.
      Have you used Hertzgerg’s book? I will eventually try it out, but for now bread baking is not top priority so am just sticking to improving on Lahey’s technique.

  7. says

    No Lisa, I have not tried Hertzerg’s book. I would like to try something without having to use the mixer which I’m currently doing for bigger batches. Growing my made bread maybe 2 times a week, kneading manually. I’m trying to get back to basics and show others, baking can be done without all the gadgets. (I’m saying this knowing that we sell bosch and other appliances on our online store :) )

  8. says

    This sounds amazingly simple – and yummy! I love that it is baked in a dutch oven – I can’t wait to try this! Thank you for linking to Two for Tuesdays!

  9. Glaucia says

    Hi, I got mesmerized by your post. I´ve been looking so long for a good book about making crispy and tasty breads and this seems to be it. But I have one question, does this book has a good bagel recipe? I love bagels, but here in São Paulo (Brasil) there´s only one place that sells them and they happen to be far from my place.

  10. says

    That recipe sounds like one I’d like to try but I don’t have a covered ceramic or cast iron pot. I looked at the various options you mention— the Sassafras Superstone looks like a cool toy but it’s a bit heavy and expensive (7# and almost $50 on Amazon). I looked up the stewpot (8.8# and well over $100) and the Lodge Dutch Oven (cheaper at about $30 but heavy at 13#). Hmm. Do you think the recipe could work on just a baking stone? I already have one of those.
    Mary @ Fit and Fed recently posted..What I Made This Week: Bread Baking with the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Book

    • says

      Peter Reinhart’s book gives tips on baking artisan bread on a baking stone (I have not tried that method). I’m sure you can search online for tips. I think some people put ice cubes on a sheet pan to create more moisture or other similar tweaks.

  11. Anna says

    I am new to bread making and have a question. When adding extra foods such as olives and rosemary to the bread dough, at what point in the process should this be done and how. Thank you.

    • lisa says

      There is no one way to do it. Sometimes I mix in the extras with all the ingredients and let rise overnight together and sometimes I may do one large plain batch and before shaping for the second rise I split up the dough and mix in what I want for each separate loaf and make 2 different flavor variations.


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