Thanks to Mark Bittman, my family has crusty bread on demand. WITHOUT kneading!
The first time I ever heard of Mark Bittman (Twitter: @bittman), it was because of a simple bread recipe that was rapidly sweeping across all my cooking communities at the time, roughly late 2006.
The recipe, or so the story went, would provide a novice baker like me with gorgeous, crusty bread, without fail, every time.
But that’s not the exciting part. The exciting part is that there’s no kneading.
Have I ever mentioned how hard it is for me to knead bread by hand? Between my chronic pain issues and fatigue and boredom, not being able to bake good bread was one of those things I felt like they should come and take away my hippy card for. That and the fact that I don’t smoke pot or drink herbal tea. Or hug trees. I have the free-love and no-money parts down, though.
But I digress.
My bread was not anything anyone longed for. They didn’t wake up in the morning hoping it was bread day. They didn’t make sure there was good butter in the house to go with the awesome bread.
All that changed with the advent of the NYT recipe (for which I must pause and give love and admiration to Jim Lahey. Bittman may have popularized it, but Lahey was the one who made it, so Mr. Lahey, you da man).
This bread sounded like it was too good to be true, so I checked out the article in the New York Times (which gave the bread its vernacular “NYT” nickname among my foodie friends) and watched the video. You should be able to see the links to the articles and video without registration, but if not, registration is free. There’s an updated article from 2008. There’s a new video, too. (If you use the recipe Bittman posted, I recommend the 1 1/2 cups of water he uses in the video, not the 1 5/8 from the printed recipe.)
Oh. My. Effing. God.
It was the best bread I had baked up until that point, and not only that, but it gave me the courage to keep baking bread until it was how I wanted it to be. We bake our own bread all the time, now, and I’m here to tell you that Mark Bittman’s adventurous spirit around trying new ways of doing things is one of the reasons I kept plugging away at it.
And that’s how I encountered Mark Bittman. No-nonsense, minimalist Mark Bittman. In fact, his column in the New York Times is called “The Minimalist“. He claims not to be a chef, but everyone I know who’s cooked from his How To Cook Everything book disagrees. You should check him out. And if you buy his book from my Bookshelf, my cut goes to the Alameda County Community Food Bank.
Some of my favorite Minimalist videos:
Grilled Corn, Mexican Style
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