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.