There are bakers, and there are cooks. It takes a chemist’s love of precision to be a baker. Me? I’m a cook.
However, I do love to bake bread. In fact, I’ve been on a bread-baking kick for several years, experimenting with everything from the old-fashioned, knead-it-up method to neo-hippy, grow-your-own-wild-yeast-before-you-even-start-mixing-the-dough recipes. Recently, however, I learned a method so wonderful that my experimental wanderings may be over.
The breakthrough occurred when I took a class with the legendary Jim Lahey, founder of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York and the man behind a sensational recipe for no-knead, slow-rise, no-fuss bread. Maybe just reading about it left me skeptical. Could baking bread really be as easy as he suggested?
Yes, it can. I went home after the class and adjusted his basic formula to my liking, adding extra whole-wheat flour, toasted walnuts and rosemary. Otherwise, I followed his instructions, weighed the ingredients, mixed them together and turned out an attractive, delicious loaf of bread.
One of the ways to ensure your success here is by measuring your flour by weight, not volume. When you scoop and measure flour by volume — such as using a measuring cup — the amount of flour you get each time can vary widely, sometimes by several ounces. The discrepancy is due to how tightly or loosely the flour is packed. A few ounces may not sound like much, but it can make a big difference in baked goods.
That’s why I recommend investing in a good kitchen scale if you’re going to bake bread. The one I own, which registers both ounces and grams, has turned out to be useful for any number of kitchen tasks.