The “No-Knead Bread” Chef Now Has the Secret to Sourdough

Kate Krader wrote . . . . . .

How do you explain America’s ever increasing obsession with bread, even as the ranks of gluten-free adherents continue to expand?

Credit one pioneer in the world of artisanal bread: Jim Lahey. At his Sullivan Street Bakery, which began in a tiny storefront in Soho in New York in 1994, Lahey baked monumental loaves such as the long, oval, pane pugliese with a sturdy, almost-burnt crust and chewy, moist interior. Soon, he was supplying bread to prestige restaurants around the city, including Jean-Georges and the Spotted Pig, as well as to upscale markets like Dean & Deluca.

Since then, Lahey has embarked on a mission to empower home cooks to bake their own bread. Through the University of Bread seminars he teaches at his bakery headquarters in New York’s Hells Kitchen, the “no-knead” method he introduced more than a decade ago has become a sensation, turning an army of hobbyists into passionate bread makers. No-knead bread, as the saying suggests, is a loaf made with minimal ingredients and work; the only thing you need a lot of is time—at least 24 hours.

But Lahey’s no-knead bread has become a victim of its own success. “Everyone is an expert now; no one wants to take those no-knead classes,” he told me, referring to “They want to learn the next thing.”

That new thing? Sourdough bread, with its yeasty, lightly tangy flavor and buoyant crumb. If no-knead is the beginner loaf for home bread bakers, sourdough is firmly in the intermediate category. No-knead bread is made with pre-packaged bakers yeast, a fast fermentation that works fine, according to Lahey in his forthcoming The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook (W. W. Norton & Co., November 2017). “But it tends to preclude the development of more interesting flavor.”

Lacey continues: “If you are like me and want breads that are not merely predictable but awe-inspiring—with an open crumb and a bouquet of unbelievable flavors—then you’re going to need a different kind of fermentation, one that relies on a sourdough starter.” He prefers a liquid-y starter style mixture that he calls a ‘biga’ to help the dough ferment and rise.

In his upcoming book, Lahey devotes plenty of room to topics like “a beautiful fermentation,” and he counsels readers on how to make their own. (His secret ingredient is a kale leaf, which has natural yeast clinging to it.) It’s a three-day process at minimum and can often take up to five days just to get the starter started, plus a couple of additional days to let it refresh.

For those who like short cuts, though, there is good news: Excellent ready-made starters are out there. The venerable baking company King Arthur sells a very good one, and Sullivan Street expects to have its own commercial product by this summer. Your local bakery or passionate bread baking neighbor might also be persuaded to give you starter for your bread.

In this exclusive preview, here is Lahey’s sourdough bread recipe, adapted from the The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook, co-written with Maya Joseph. It takes four steps and, with a starter, can be done in about four hours.

The Ultimate Fast Sourdough

“Often I counsel patience when baking—so very often, the only secret to making a good bread better is to wait a bit longer, and let the flavors, fermentation, and rise develop, “writes Lahey in the book. “But as an impatient guy, and there are sometimes when I want to mix, bake, and eat a loaf not tomorrow, but today. Here is a recipe for those moments. It’s not instant bread, but it is faster bread. ”

Yield: One 9-inch round loaf.

Equipment: A 4½- to 5½-quart heavy pot with lid; a large piece of parchment paper.


100 grams prepared starter (such as King Arthur Classic Fresh Sourdough Starter)
200 grams (about 1 1/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour
100 grams (about 2/3 cup) whole wheat flour
6 grams (about 1 teaspoon) fine sea salt
230 grams (about 1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon) 65ºF-70ºF water
Wheat bran, for dusting


1. In a large bowl, combine the white flour, wheat flour, and salt and whisk to combine. In a small bowl, whisk the starter and water until the starter is fully dissolved. Pour the starter mixture into the flour, and use a flexible spatula to quickly mix. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean kitchen towel, and let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Turn the dough, pulling it off the sides of the bowl and folding into the center as you turn; work it as little as possible. Cover loosely and let rest for 30 minutes before turning the dough again. After approximately 5 turns, or 2 ½ to 3 hours, the dough should be ready. (Don’t expect to see a big increase in size in this dough—by turning the dough every half-hour, you are doing what I call the lazy man’s version of kneading the dough—improving the texture without much effort.)

Note: How do you tell when it’s ready? You want it to get to the point where it is capable of holding a shape, and not ooze into a pancake when you shape it into a ball. It should be so interested in sticking to itself that it easily peels off the bowl when ready to shape.

3. Place a large piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan and cover with wheat bran, so that you can no longer see the paper. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and form it loosely into a ball: hold it with both hands and gently tug the sides down and under, into the middle of the dough, to make a taut ball; don’t let the dough tear. Set the dough seam side down on the bran-coated paper. Dust the top of the dough lightly with more bran. Cover loosely with the towel and let it sit at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 500ºF (450ºF if your oven runs hot). Preheat a cast-iron ovenproof pot with tight-fitting lid, such as Le Creuset, in the oven. Carefully remove the lid and transfer the dough on the parchment into the pot. Use a serrated knife to score the loaf with a long slash, to allow the dough to expand. Cover the pot immediately and place the pot in the oven.

5. Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes with the lid on. Carefully remove the lid and tear off any excess parchment. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes with the lid off, until the crust is a very, very dark brown. (I urge you to let the bread cook, uncovered, until the top of the bread nearly blackens and the sides reach a very, very, very dark brown.) Remove the loaf from the pot. Cool the loaf on a wire rack. The loaf will continue to cook as it cools, so try to wait an hour or so before cutting into it.

Source: Bloomberg

Bread Made From Peas? Bakers Look at Protein to Make Healthier Alternatives

Jen Skerritt wrote . . . . . .

At a laboratory in downtown Winnipeg, scientists are trying to revive the fortunes of the bread industry — with peas.

“The biggest challenge is the flavor,” because pea bread tends to taste too much like, well, peas, said Yulia Borsuk, a technical specialist in baking technology at the Canadian International Grains Institute lab.

With more people looking for healthier alternatives to carbohydrate-rich foods made from wheat, Canadian researchers are working with Warburtons Ltd., the U.K.’s largest bakery brand. They are developing dough from pea flour that produces bread that looks and tastes almost like any other loaf, but which also has more protein and less of the carbs and gluten that more consumers are trying to avoid.

Substituting pulses — a group of high-protein, low-fat dried seeds that are part of the legume family — for wheat could help revive stagnant sales in a global baked-goods market valued at more than $400 billion. Some shoppers are swapping carb- and sugar-laden goodies like pastries and cakes for items with more protein. Those on the Paleolithic Diet ditch grains and sugar entirely and eat only whole, unprocessed foods that were available during the Stone Age.

“People are going to caveman diets, and protein is always a big part of that,” said Adam Dyck, a Canadian-based spokesman for Warburtons, which is headquartered in Bolton, England. “You go talk to any major food company right now and protein is on their radar.”

Test loaves are being made at the Winnipeg lab because Canada is the world’s largest exporter of peas and lentils traditionally used in soups and curries. But the crops also can be made into fiber, flour starch and protein concentrates that are making their way into packaged foods.

‘Biggest Draw’

Canada has plenty of the raw material. Its lentil output is expected to rise 8 percent in 2017-18 to a record 3.5 million tons, the nation’s agriculture ministry said in a February report. Production of dry peas will probably fall 12 percent to 4.3 million tons due to a return to average yields, according to the report.

“Protein is the seller,” said Ashok Sarkar, senior adviser of technology at the grains institute. “That’s the biggest draw, and there are many side benefits, like fiber, minerals, micronutrients.”

While peas are a long way from competing with wheat — the dominant grain for baked goods — the commodity is finding its way into more products. Minneapolis-based General Mills Inc. uses pea protein in its Larabar snack bar, while Nabisco Holdings Corp. uses red beans in a variety of Triscuit’s brown rice crackers.

Last fall, Warburtons introduced a line of protein-packed baked goods made with wholemeal flour and pulses, including wraps, rolls, loaves and thins with eight to 10 grams of protein. The privately-held company is looking for other ways to use peas and lentils in baking. It provided the lab in-kind contributions of equipment valued at C$680,000 ($506,000). That included a fermentation tank needed for a three-year research project by the institute that is the largest of its kind ever. Researchers are creating a database of flavors and functions of pulses in baked goods that will be shared with farmers, processors and food companies.

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Consumers are willing to pay a premium for these products, and Warburtons hopes to advance its uses of pulse flours in other areas, such as gluten-free baked goods.

“We weren’t going to do it unless we were going to increase sales and attract a different kind of consumer,” Dyck said. “There’s great opportunity to bring people into the bakery market.”

And it isn’t just bakers. Packaged-food producers including Mondelez International Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc. also are looking to healthier, protein-based snacks with convenient packaging to combat tepid sales, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Kenneth Shea said in a March 3 report.

Bread is “considered more and more to be an unhealthy product,” Shea said in an interview. “It’s white flour, it’s white sugar — all the stuff that consumers are trying to move away from.”

The Canadian government and the farmer-funded Grains Institute have been test baking pulses since 2003. While they’ve figured out how to use the crop in Asian noodles and pasta, it’s more difficult to create bread that mimics the color, texture and flavor of wheat.

At the Winnipeg lab, Borsuk bakes dozens of loaves a week to test different combinations of flours made from pulse crops like yellow peas, red lentils and navy beans. The lab uses various treatments to alter or mask the pea flavor, including infrared heat.

Too Sticky

Another challenge is that pea dough has no gluten, which means it tends to be stickier than wheat flour. That can be a problem if it gums up bakery rollers and processing surfaces. The lab uses a texture analyzer resembling a guillotine that lowers a blade into the dough to measure how much force it takes to cut in and out.

“For a bakery to incorporate pulses in their processing or their product, they don’t want to have issues on the line because it’s big money,” Kasia McMillin, a lab technician, said as she scraped the remnants of some test dough off her fingertips. “It’s a dirty job.”

For now, testers are adding some wheat flour — and its gluten — to make the pea dough easier to work with. The sample loaves are analyzed for everything from firmness, texture, color and taste. Researchers use electronic devices to test for properties such as bitterness or soapiness. At the end of the week, workers gather to taste samples.

“It’s fun,” said Borsuk, who prefers the bread made with chickpeas rather than red lentils, which she thinks has a slightly bitter aftertaste. “They are all different.”

Source: Bloomberg

Video: How to Make 3-ingredient, No Yeast Fry-pan Bread

The bread was made with glutinous rice flour, soft tofu and pancake mix in a non-stick frying pan.

Watch video at You Tube (35 seconds) . . . . .

A Guide to Navigating the Grocery Store Bread Aisle

Leslie Beck wrote . . . . .

Gone are the days when buying sliced bread was simply a matter of choosing between white, whole wheat or rye. Today, breads are made with added flax, chia and hemp seeds, quinoa, spelt, sprouted grains, even extra protein. Some loaves promise heart health, while others claim digestive and weight-control benefits.

But a healthy-sounding name doesn’t mean that a loaf of bread is jam-packed with whole grains – or has any, for that matter. And two slices might deliver more sodium, added sugar and calories than you want.

When comparing the calorie, fibre and sodium contents of different breads, do so for a similar serving size, which is given in weight (grams) and the number of slices. Labels of small loaves of bread usually state nutrition information for two slices, whereas larger loaves typically list nutrient numbers for one slice; if you make a sandwich with two large slices of bread, you may need to double the numbers.

Use the following tips to guide you through the bread aisle.

Choose 100-per-cent whole grain

Whole grain breads are made with flours that contain the entire grain – the outer bran layer, where nearly all the fibre is, the germ layer rich in nutrients and the endosperm, which contains the starch. When whole grains are processed into refined flour (i.e., white flour), all that’s left is the starch.

Breads labelled 100-per-cent whole grain are made entirely from whole-grain flour – they don’t contain any refined flour. If the label doesn’t say so, read the ingredient list and look for words such as whole-grain whole wheat, cracked wheat, whole rye, rye meal, rye kernels, whole spelt, oats, brown rice meal and flaxseed.

Enriched flour, wheat flour, unbleached wheat flour and rye flour are not whole grain; they are other names for refined (white) flour.

Next best: Choose a bread that is predominantly whole grain, meaning the first ingredient is whole grain. (Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight.)

Look for fibre

Whole-grain breads naturally have more fibre than white bread, but some brands deliver even more by adding flaxseed, oats, oat bran, psyllium, barley kernels, wheat bran, peas or soy flour.

Choose bread that has at least two grams of fibre per 30-gram slice or three grams per 45-gram slice.

Watch sodium

Salt is added to bread to enhance flavour and aid in processing. Two slices of bread add roughly 170 to 360 milligrams of sodium to your diet.

Depending on what you’re putting between those two slices of bread – think smoked turkey, ham, tuna – your meal may be supplying more sodium than you realize.

Choose whole-grain bread with less than 200 mg of sodium a slice. Healthy adults need no more than 1,200 to 1,500 mg of sodium a day, depending on age.

Limit added sugar

Read the ingredient list and you’ll usually find added sugar in commercial breads, be it sugar/glucose-fructose, molasses, brown sugar, honey, raisin syrup or raisin juice concentrate. In some cases, sugar ranks second or third on the ingredient list.

Sugar imparts sweetness and texture to bread. It also serves to slow moisture loss, preventing bread from becoming stale as quickly.

Most breads contain two to six grams of sugar per two-slice serving. Some, such as Dempster’s 100-per-cent Whole Grains Seed Lover’s Bread and Dimpflmeier Organic 100-per-cent Rye Bread with Wholegrain, have none. Others, however, can serve up as much as 10 g of sugar (2 1/2 teaspoons’ worth) per two-slice serving. That’s a lot, considering recent guidelines advise that women cut back to no more than 24 g (six teaspoons) of added sugar per day and men no more than 36 g (nine tsp).

Be mindful of portion size

According to Canada’s Food Guide, one serving of bread weighs in at 35 g and about 70 calories. But loaves of bread have grown in size over the years.

Many slices of whole-grain bread weigh 45 g and have as many as 120 calories, in part due to the addition of whole-grain ingredients and seeds. That’s not a bad thing: Bigger slices offer more whole grains and fibre. But if you’re watching your weight, you may not want the extra calories. Check the nutrition facts box; depending on the bread you choose, one slice may count as two servings.

Bottom line

Look for 100-per-cent whole-grain bread with at least 2 g of fibre per 30 g slice, less than 200 mg of sodium a slice and as little sugar as possible.

Source: The Globe and Mail

U.S. Bread Basket Shifts Thanks to Climate Change

Niina Heikkinen wrote

Farming across the Midwest will be challenged by a shifting climate and may struggle to keep up crop production

In September 2014, a group of leading plant and agricultural researchers sat down at Washington University in St. Louis to discuss a looming question — how will agriculture in the Midwest be affected by climate change?

This wasn’t just an academic exercise. Midwestern farmers grow the majority of the country’s corn and soybeans, and scientists had predicted that yields could take a substantial hit from changing weather patterns, with potential impacts on food prices and farmers’ earnings. Even though lots of researchers have studied how climate change could affect agriculture in the country’s “bread basket,” discussions have been siloed. Agronomists talk to other agronomists, soil scientists to other soil scientists, and agricultural economists talk to agricultural economists.

The researchers suggested a different approach — one that would integrate data across disciplines to build a much more comprehensive picture of how a changing climate could alter farming in the region. Over the following weeks, they developed their idea further. The interdisciplinary group of researchers proposed the creation of a network of field research sites that would collect data on current and future crops, different cropping systems and farm-level management practices. It would emphasize collecting field data to better inform climate modeling in the region, and participating facilities would conduct experiments to test different adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Their proposal, titled “Pharaoh’s Dream Revisited: An Integrated U.S. Midwest Field Research Network for Climate Adaptation,” was recently published in BioScience.

“We really wanted to step back and ask the big question of what could we do that would advance the response [to climate change], and we really felt that this was the thing that needs to be done,” said David Gustafson, director of the International Life Sciences Institute Research Foundation’s Center for Integrated Modeling of Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition Security and lead author of the article.

So far, Midwestern farmers have managed to escape major losses from climate change-related events, but that high productivity may change in just a few decades, researchers say.

Today, average yields for corn and soybeans in the Midwest are about 173 bushels per acre. By 2050, researchers predict, yields could fall by as much as a quarter. Yield losses in the Midwest aren’t just bad for American consumers. The region provides the largest share of globally traded corn and soybeans.

How do you plant ‘big data’ among farmers?

Farmers are already responding to more variable weather by installing drainage systems to keep their fields from becoming waterlogged during heavy rains and expanding irrigation to ward off the effects of drought. Some farmers are reducing tillage to increase soil carbon content and reduce erosion. Others are buying larger equipment so they can complete planting faster when the conditions are favorable.

But all these measures may not be enough to prepare Midwestern farmers for the dramatic environmental changes ahead. By between 2035 to 2065, temperatures in Illinois will be more like those in the mid-South, with rainfall patterns ranging between today’s East Texas and the Carolinas. While higher temperatures may make certain regions more hospitable for growing, other problems like low soil quality or not enough rainfall could make shifting production there more unlikely.

The effect on food prices is much less certain; studies suggest global food prices could stay relatively unchanged or increase by more than 60 percent.

These projections could become more accurate with broader access to relevant data on things like soil health, plant growth and farm management, the researchers said.

According to Gustafson, one of the first steps to encourage more data sharing will be to get partners like the Department of Agriculture’s Midwest Climate Hub, land grant universities and extension programs to collaborate more closely. The network would even include farmers and private-sector data, though that would raise more issues around proprietary information.

“Right now, we have islands of data collected by individuals; there really aren’t uniform standards for collection and curation of data,” said Gustafson. “We believe there ought to be research accessible across the entire Midwest.”

Richard Robertson, a research fellow with the International Food Policy Research Institute and co-author of the paper, agreed. As a crop modeler, Robertson said he could use more specific information about real-world farming practices to make his simulations more accurate.

“When should I get the fake seed into the fake soil under the fake sunshine?” he asked.

The answer isn’t always that obvious from the data. A mathematically ideal time to plant from a modeler’s perspective might not work for a farmer who is trying to keep his corn from being eaten by pests. But without communication, there is no way for people working with models to accurately reflect that kind of information in their predictions, he said.

“I think the vision outlined is brilliant and spot-on,” said J. Gordon Arbuckle, a sociologist at Iowa State University who has done extensive research on Midwestern farmers’ views on climate change and who was not involved in the study. “Bringing the many relevant disciplines and stakeholders together would be a challenging but ultimately most effective way to improve the resilience of Midwest agriculture.”

A long-discussed problem becomes crucial

The idea that scientists should do more to work together is not new, and calls for more open data have been getting louder since the early 2000s, said Gerald Nelson, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and co-author of the paper.

“In the last 10 years, the push for open data has been inexorable,” he said. “That’s the direction everyone is headed. What you do have to do is make it easy for people to make data available.”

He said that more communication would help researchers identify what kind of data would be useful to colleagues in other disciplines.

Robertson said that in his own personal experience, he has seen limited progress in how much researchers from different disciplines work together.

“I remember sitting in a room 13 years ago talking about the same thing. This goes back a long ways. Over these 13 years, we haven’t been able to get people in the same room at all. As a grad student, I could tell people were talking right past each other,” he said.

Data-sharing networks similar to what the researchers are proposing already exist in other scientific fields. Climate scientists make weather and temperature data widely available to their colleagues. In genomics, open data initiatives like the Human Genome Project helped to quickly advance research in the field.

There are also smaller-scale examples of cooperation within climate change and agriculture research, such as the Sustainable Corn and Useful to Usable projects, which are funded by the Department of Agriculture, said Arbuckle.

“[These projects] have shown that integrated, transdisciplinary approaches that bring physical and social scientists together with farmers and agricultural advisors can have powerful results. Scaling such approaches up, as the authors envision, could help us meet adaptation and mitigation objectives more effectively and on a much larger scale,” he wrote in an email.

Who pays for the experiments?

How do you get soil scientists, agricultural economists, hydrologists and climate scientists to work together across disciplines at the scale this paper proposes?

“Lock them in a room and shove pizza under the door,” Robertson said, laughing.

While he’s joking about that part, Robertson said that getting everyone to sit down in the same room, and to keep doing that over an extended period time, is important for building communication across different research fields.

“For people to work together, there has to be something to work on, and there has to be support, i.e., money to make this happen. It would need somebody somewhere with a big pile of money to say, ‘Hey, let’s do something for the taxpayers,'” he said.

That support would most likely come from public sources like the Department of Agriculture and from private business like Monsanto Co. and Kellogg Co.

As for how to make this integrated system work on a practical level, it’s still much too early to say, but the researchers hope that the development of such a system would encourage similar collaborations across the United States and internationally.

“[The project] has to be big enough that it matters; we don’t know exactly how it’s going to happen. We need to be testing things out in a wide variety of different experiments,” Robertson said.

Source: Scientific American