No knead for great bread and innovation

Usually, the way we do things is not necessarily the only way. And, if “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is the stock reply in your organization, then disappearing into the staff dining room, and chewing on an innovative alternative may be just what you’re looking for. It’s true in business and it’s true in the kitchen, for the kitchen is a great work place, as well as a metaphor for innovation and creativity.

Bread

The kitchen is the place where ideas are formed, and people congregate. Clichés rooted in good advice emanate from the kitchen. “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the . . . ,” to the uber-cliché “Too many cooks . . .” etc., etc. The following bread recipe is exciting in its simplicity, and provides a window on how we—as a civilization—can do things one way (for thousands of years) until someone finds a new way, upon which a new industry is formed. A time-saving breakthrough. Just what every business would like to experience in 2012.

In the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of the Food Network, YouTube, and reality shows like Top Chef that provide a forum for chefs to demonstrate their craft. Our interest is great because we get to learn new best practices at the feet of masters, in an area where we—or someone we know—already professes proficiency. It has become another of life’s lessons that translates well into business—seek out the masters and listen to them. What you learn, may have great consequence.

I am just like every other guy. Of course I want to spend hours in the kitchen working on something special to bring to the next dinner party. But, thanks to Mark Bittman (New York Times Dining & Wine columnist, “The Minimalist”) there is an incredible shortcut that can take from between 12 and 24 hours from start to finish. But really, it only takes about five minutes to prepare.

The bread is SOOO good that I tossed out my Zojirushi breadmaker years ago, and replaced it with a simple Pyrex bowl. I’m not kidding. The bread looks like the artisanal breads in the finest deli’s and specialty shops including the gorgeous crust*.

“. . . a six year old can make better bread than almost any bakery in the country, including this one.”

—Jim Lahey, Baker, Owner, Sullivan Street Bakery

I was a novice when it came to baking. So, when the recipe was first published on November 8, 2006, I had little appreciation for the national attention it would receive from those that live by their ovens. It spawned blogs that continue to proliferate.

Why does this recipe work? The answer lies in chemistry. It has something to do with the realignment of the molecules through the action of the enzymes, that mimic the effect one gets when using the traditional method of kneading . . . or something like that. That’s about all I want to know.

The no-knead recipe, attributed to Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery originally located in New York City’s SoHo district, and now in Hell’s Kitchen, is essentially this (see links below for the actual recipe):

You will need:

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 3/8 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 5/8 cup water
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

Instructions:

  1. Mix flour/water/salt/yeast, with a little more water than typical.
  2. Cover for 18 or so hours. Give exact time a holiday, the recipe is forgiving.
  3. Fold over about 4 times. Let rise for 2 hours.
  4. Pre-heat oven and bowl to 450.
  5. Oh, you need to put it in the oven. Bake covered for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove cover for 15 minutes.
  7. Oh, you need to remove it from the oven.
  8. Party on.

Links:

My notes on the article, recipe, and videos above:

  • A 4-quart Pyrex bowl is perfectly fine to bake in. The bread is fancy, the kitchen implements are basic.
  • Love it? Get yourself a silicon liner to save dusting flour and cleanup time.
  • Experiment with various flours, but begin with white flour to get the feel of it.
  • My favorite: Organic flours all. White, 2/3; whole grain wheat 1/3. Plus a handful of flaxseed meal, and toss in some wheat bran, and/or some oat bran.


*My bread machine wouldn’t have known a great crust if it broke its dual mixers on one.

Author’s Note:
Recently, according to his website, “Jim Lahey opened his first restaurant, Co. (230 9th Avenue at 24th Street in Manhattan). The name is short for Company, a word whose Latin roots refer to the phrase ‘with bread,’ of course.”

Posted by Frank J. Mendelson | Best Practices, Business, Business Communications, Communications | Comments 0 |
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