Bittman Bread: No-Knead Whole Grain Baking for Every Day
“Mark Bittman and Kerri Conan have simplified whole grain baking and made it accessible to the home cook, and by the end of the book, you may find yourself pulling out a beautiful crusty loaf of homemade sourdough bread from a hot oven.”
There are hundreds of books on bread making. Does the world really need another one? The answer is a resounding yes, if the author is Mark Bittman.
Bittman has written more than 30 books, including Animal, Vegetable, Junk and How to Cook Everything series.
Aptly titled, Bittman Bread: No-Knead Whole Grain Baking for Every Day, this is Bittman’s, and his co-author Kerri Conan’s, latest tribute to whole grain baking and the no-knead movement. Like any good cookbook, it is filled with tips, instructions, and directions. There are detailed photographs, lists of ingredients, and a glossary of terms. (GYOG or grind your own grain).
The combined experience (genius?) of these two talented cooks is a boon to home cooks. Bittman and Conan have simplified whole grain baking and made it accessible to the home cook, and by the end of the book, you may find yourself pulling out a beautiful crusty loaf of homemade sourdough bread from a hot oven.
Baking, according to Bittman and Conan, provides a cook with a sense of love, peace, enjoyment, and fulfillment, as well as a strong link to the history of hundreds of millions of bread makers.
The best bits are the illustrated (almost cartoonish) back and forth between Bittman and Conan. It’s like watching two good friends cooking together, enjoying each other’s company and having too much fun.
The authors have distinct and separate voices, and each one tells a story of baking. For example, Conan writes the introduction to Chapter 1 and explains what method of starter is used in this book.
“Our way is based on another tradition that of using a piece of today’s already-fermented dough as the basis for tomorrow’s bread. Before the invention of commercial yeast, bakers would simply hold back a chunk of dough before baking and combine it with new flour and water to begin the process of creating the next loaf. As long as they made bread every day, there was no need to maintain a separate starter. . . .
“Our little system works perfectly, and with our foolproof and super-fast starter-from-scratch recipe (easier than making a cup of coffee!), you’ll be baking naturally fermented whole wheat bread three days after you start the process.”
The first recipe in this beautifully illustrated hardcover book is for a yeasted whole grain loaf, a steppingstone to making naturally fermented bread. But why use whole grain?
White flour is easy to digest and produces light and airy loaves but is nutritionally bereft, a near-perfect delivery system of empty calories. Although, there’s a place for refined flour, the body digests white flour the same way it does sugar: fast and furious. Whole grain is just better for the body, and if you are choosing white flour then you may has well be eating fast food.
The authors guarantee the reader will love working with whole grains and the resulting nutty, rounded, mellow flavored bread. It also turns out whole grains are very versatile and can be used to make everything from loaf breads to pizzas, flatbreads, rolls, and even dessert (think chocolate chunk torte, crumby cookies pancakes, and beignets).
With amusing titles such as “Ban the Banneton” to “A loaf to rule them all,” the book is a fun, informative read that is sure to become a classic.
Experienced cooks might be taken aback and even shocked by some of their suggestions. For example, take the idea of baking the loaf in a COLD oven. Most cookbooks and sourdough aficionados swear by baking a loaf in a hot oven using a heated Dutch Oven crock pot. Well, this book dispels the notion completely.
“By starting with a covered pot in a cold oven, the dough produces gorgeous doming, a crisp crust, and a moist interior, what we consider an ideal bread. And the baking is fast and easy.”
So go ahead and try it. You might be pleasantly surprised.