I was sitting at my desk at the Times 10 years ago when Jim Lahey – whom I knew only by reputation – emailed me: “I have a new method of making bread that requires no kneading and can give you professional results at home.”
I started baking bread in 1970, and, when my friend Charlie Van Over developed what I still believe is the best food processor method there is, I adopted that and never looked back. But Lahey’s invitation was intriguing, and, besides, Sullivan St. Bakery was a 10 minute walk from the Times. (Not, as you might imagine, on Sullivan Street, but on 47th Street.) Why the hell not?
It was a period during which the Times was experimenting with video, and I was one of the lucky guinea pigs. So on a bright November day (Jim insists it was election day 2006; I have no recollection), I walked over with two video people, we watched Jim do his thing, I wrote it up, the video people edited, and …. It became one of the most popular stories in the history of the Times.
That level of popularity was a peculiar confluence of events, but that bread recipe (which I used yesterday, and will tomorrow, barely unchanged from the original), has legs. That original description by Jim remains true, and literally millions of people now make bread according to Jim’s instructions.
A few weeks ago, just before election day 2016, I met two video people from Food & Wine at Sullivan Street (which hasn’t changed much) and we taped a reunion, with Jim commenting on and critiquing my technique (which evidently isn’t bad). You can watch (the extremely abridged version) here. As you can tell – we had fun.
One of my favorite ways to use a big, exhaustive cookbook is to flip to the index and figure out how to make use of an ingredient I’ve already got. This week, it was about a cup of buttermilk, and I turned to How to Bake Everything.
I wanted to make something that wouldn’t require a trip to the grocery store, which made whittling down my options easy: no Buttermilk Pie or Bars because I didn’t have cream to make a custard, no cakes because I don’t own an electric mixer (no way I’m going to cream the butter and sugar by hand!), and no cookies because I had less than a stick of butter in the fridge. What did that leave? After about 2 minutes of narrowing down, only one option: Buttermilk Biscuits. Continue reading →
This tart was so awesome it was gone by the time of writing this post, and I’m ambivalent about chocolate. I am not the type of person who loses her mind over chocolate cake, or chocolate ice cream, or unadorned chocolate. I will eat those things, of course, but they are not my first dessert choice. Enthusiasts, please stay with me. Continue reading →
The last time I baked bread, I was in junior high school, which is more years ago than I care to count. I started with plain white bread, baked up in a loaf pan, and then went on to experiment a bit with different recipes. My Waterloo, if my memory is correct, was a pumpernickel rye. I can’t exactly recall what went wrong, but I know for sure that something did! Continue reading →
I’d really like to know what folks think about this video, which is the second (the first is here) in a series I did with my friend Ricardo Salvador (@cadwego), who heads the Food and Environment team at Union of Concerned Scientists, of which I’m happy to be a part. The series combines cooking—in this case an apple crisp, more on which in a second—with a discussion of the production of food and the policies that guide it (often mis-guide, of course). I hope the main points are clear. (I also discussed the election and the future of food policy with Mother Jones.) Continue reading →
The first thing that hit me when I saw Mark’s recipe for No-Bake Fruit and Cereal Bars in his new book How to Bake Everything was that it sounded a lot like Rice Krispies Treats®, only with fruit and juice instead of the sticky marshmallow sauce for glue. If I went with a puffed whole grain—Khorasan wheat to be exact—the bars would have a similar texture and, with the fiber and small bit of honey for sweetener, they’d actually be a healthy and satisfying snack. Continue reading →
In case anyone ever asks me what my favorite dessert flavors are (no one has yet), I have that answer ready, in descending order: lemon, caramel, almond.
If your list doesn’t look like mine, the Lemon Tart from How to Bake Everything is still worth trying. It’s also super easy to put together. It’s actually three different recipes from HTBE, which can all be made ahead of time and assembled right before you serve: Sweet Tart Crust, Lemon Curd, and Whipped Cream. Continue reading →
Mark’s new book, How to Bake Everything, got me thinking about what makes a full-on go-to recipe. Topmost, it’s flavor—you take a bite and your first thought is WOW! Adaptability is also important; I like when you can simply swap ingredients in and out and the result is still delicious, only now in a totally different way. Easy changes are at the core of how Mark thinks about food and he’s extended this approach to develop variations for baking. Lastly, recipes I make again and again are always forgiving, even when I need to go rogue.
A perfect example is the book’s Lemon Cornmeal Cake. I absolutely love this cake: it goes together in less than 15 minutes, bakes up in 30, and you can serve it right out of the pan or flip it out onto a plate. It’s intensely citrusy and not too sweet, making it wonderful for snacking (meaning I don’t feel guilty when I eat most of it myself in a series of small slivers). The first time I made it just as written—well, not quite. I used my cast iron skillet as the pan and I “baked” it on my gas grill. It was fantastic. Continue reading →
When asked the defining question “Stones or Beatles?” I say Kinks. Given the choice between Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip, the answer is “Fig Bittmans.” So that’s the first recipe we’re featuring from Mark’s newest cookbook How to Bake Everything.
For such fancy-looking cookies, the scenario is supernaturally simple: Make the dough (which calls for brown sugar to give the crust a lovely caramel color and flavor). While it rests in the fridge, soften dried figs (I used a mixture of Black Mission and Turkish) in orange juice; purée. Mark has you divide the dough into four pieces so it’s easy to handle, then roll and fill.
Transfer each folded log to an ungreased baking sheet—seam side down—and into a 375dgF. When you open the oven door to check on them the first time, you’ll be amazed at how they’ve puffed up. And the fragrance! Cut them into “Bittmans” while they’re still a little warm and you can hear the crunch.
For a pro-like look I trimmed most of the ends (and ate them!). The combination of fig, orange, and vanilla is way better than anything out of a box. And you get at least two-dozen cookies in one batch so they’re hardly any more time consuming than other cookies. They’ll keep for a week in an airtight container but won’t last that long. So if you want to pace yourself, wrap a few in sheets of wax paper and freeze them in a bag. Then you can defrost a package in the microwave and eat them warm for breakfast. Just saying.
The recipe follows so you can try a batch, too. They’d be terrific for a Halloween party.