Jim Lahey, owner of the well-known Sullivan Street Bakery and Co., has done to bread what Steve Jobs did to computers -- he revolutionized it. Whether you're an avid home baker or not, there's a pretty good chance that you've heard of his no-knead bread-making method.
Lahey has taken most of the work out of making bread (the days of tired arms punching dough are behind us) and he has simply added a longer waiting period; at the same time, he has given home bread bakers a recipe that will give them a golden crust and perfect crumb every time. You could say he is the rock star of bread making, and many home bakers are his groupies.
As it turns out, Lahey's recipe isn't only good for great big loaves of bread, you can use it to make Italian-style pizza too. And with Lahey's new cookbook just hitting the shelves, "My Pizza: The Easy No-Knead Way to Make Spectacular Pizza at Home,'" you'll find yourself with no lack of inspiration. We at Kitchen Daily got a chance to speak to Lahey and learned a little bit more about his baking method. Read his interview below:
HuffPost: First off, for those who haven't tried your dough yet -- we know that your method is less labor intensive than traditional homemade dough, but can you explain to us in detail the advantage in flavor and texture that your no-knead pizza dough has over the traditional version?
Jim Lahey: The advantage in flavor and texture that my no-knead dough has over the perceived conventional method is that it challenges your expectations of what you think is supposed to happen. By practicing a spontaneous standard, you’ll start to understand the relationship of fermentation to flavor and then you’ll have control over how you make bread. The other advantage of the no-knead method is that it leaves the natural pigmentation of the flour intact, which can be a kind of yellowish, pinkish or even grayish color in your final loaf. If you were to use the standard method of using a mixer and working lots of oxygen into the dough, your loaf would be a lot lighter in color.
HuffPost: Your dough can be refrigerated (raw) for up to 3 days, but it can't be frozen. Explain to us why not.
Jim Lahey: You can freeze it but you need to use the right strain of yeast that survives freezing temperatures, like SAF Gold Instant Yeast. The dough will also change a bit, but you can get a pretty decent end result.
HuffPost: Your method is relatively simple and "no-fail," but what are the common mistakes people make when using your pizza or bread recipes?
Jim Lahey: Under fermentation, over-mixing and over-handling the dough would be the most common mistakes people make. The solution would simply be to handle and mix the dough less and ferment it more.
HuffPost: What are your tips for buying and storing yeast?
Jim Lahey: It’s really just common sense. Yeast is affected by the temperature it’s stored at, so I wouldn’t recommend leaving yeast in an unconditioned trailer all summer in Nevada or something. As far as freezing yeast, it may extend some portion of its shelf life.
HuffPost: Have you ever been taken aback by the success of the growth of the no-knead method (since Bittman first wrote about it in 2006), or are you surprised it's not more common, considering what a great method it is?
Jim Lahey: It’s phenomenal how popular it’s become. I’m extremely flattered that it’s creating a dialogue about what bread may be or should be or could be and yes, it’s all good.
HuffPost: What do you think of the rise of gluten-free baking? Do you have any interest in it?
Jim Lahey: I think there was a study recently that showed that gluten intolerance existed some 20,000 years ago at the end of the Paleolithic era. Back then, no one was even eating bread. Human beings were eating other things. Bread is something that was introduced into our diet, at least European humans, like 400 to 6,000 years ago. Before that, we were eating, I don’t know, a caveman diet. My interest in gluten-free baking is that it’s, well, baking. It’s bread. It’s starch. It’s handling materials. It’s teamwork.
HuffPost: What toppings are on your ultimate pizza?
Jim Lahey: My fantasy pizza would be made with gazpacho, tomato and chiles topped with shrimp. I say “fantasy” because I can imagine these flavors together, but I’m actually allergic to shellfish. Otherwise, I’d say my ultimate pizza that I would want to eat now is my Bird’s Nest Pie with shaved asparagus, quail eggs and Saint Nectaire cheese. If you can’t find Saint Nectaire, taleggio makes a good substitute.
HuffPost: Finally, how many pizzas do you estimate Co. bakes every day?
Jim Lahey: At Co., we average between 200 and 300 pizzas a day. Last year, we made about 75,000 pizzas!