A revolutionary approach to making easy, delicious whole-grain bread and more
This is the best bread you’ve ever had—best tasting, nourishing, and easy to make right in your own kitchen. Mark Bittman and co-author Kerri Conan have spent years perfecting their delicious, naturally leavened, whole-grain bread. Their discovery? The simplest, least fussy, most flexible way to make bread really is the best.
Beginning with a wholesome, flavorful no-knead loaf (that also happens to set you up with a sourdough starter for next time), this book features a bounty of simple, adaptable recipes for every taste, any grain—including baguettes, hearty seeded loaves, sandwich bread, soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls, focaccia, pizza, waffles, and much more.
At the foundation, Mark and Kerri offer a method that works with your schedule, a starter that’s virtually indestructible, and all the essential information and personal insights you need to make great bread.
Mark’s Rye Bread
When I (Mark) was growing up in New York City, my mom regularly sent me to Craig’s Bakery on First Avenue near 20th Street for a loaf of rye. The crust was really good—thin, crisp, and stretchy; the bread could be bought with or without caraway seeds. My guess is that it was 10 or 20 percent rye (as you’ll see, that’s plenty to change both flavour and texture) and the rest white flour, which meant the crumb was mushy and moist. I often ate a quarter of a loaf between Craig’s and home.
Sixty years have gone by. This bread is both the ancestor and the descendant of Craig’s rye, which was made at a time when white flour was in everything. Now we make it as it was undoubtedly made in nineteenth-century Europe, with 100 percent whole grain in both the starter and the dough. The crumb is light, slightly chewy, and with some heft; the crust still crackles.
Since rye doesn’t have as much gluten as wheat, the flour won’t absorb water and become elastic the same way as all-wheat bread. Too much water causes the texture to become gummy, so keep water to a minimum—just enough to prevent sticking—as you wet your hands and fold the dough. The dough may be soft, but as long as it’s not too wet, you will produce a loaf that will dome almost to the top of the pot—a beauty.
As for the caraway seeds: They’re optional, but Mark uses a lot, at least half a standard spice jar. If you like that style, buy the seeds by the pound.
1 loaf (12 to 141/2-inch slices)
8 to 12 hours for the jumpstarter
About 3 hours intermittent activity to mix and fold the dough
About 90 minutes intermittent activity to shape, rest, and bake the loaf
100 grams whole wheat starter
270 grams whole wheat flour, plus 50 grams for feeding the starter
210 grams water, plus 50 grams for feeding the starter and as needed for folding
30 grams whole grain rye flour, plus more for dusting the top (optional)
25 grams caraway seeds plus more for the top (optional)
7 or 8 grams salt
Coarse salt for topping (optional)
- Combine the starter, 100 grams of the whole wheat flour, and 100 grams of the water in a large bowl to make the jumpstarter. Stir, scraping the sides and bottom as necessary, until all the flour is absorbed. Cover with plastic or a damp kitchen towel and let it sit at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours. The jumpstarter will bubble and become quite fragrant. (The timing is flexible to fit your schedule; see “Chill at Will or Quicken the Pace” on page 000.) Meanwhile, feed the starter: Add 50 grams each whole wheat flour and water and stir or shake. Cover and return the starter to the refrigerator.
- When you’re ready to make the dough, add the remaining 170 grams whole wheat flour, the 30 grams rye flour, and 110 grams water to the jumpstarter. Stir with a rubber spatula or your wet hands until a dough forms and looks springy, 1 to 2 minutes. If there’s still flour not incorporated around the bottom or edges of the bowl, stir in more water a dribble at a time as you work. The dough should be wet and shaggy but will form a loose ball. Cover and let it sit for about 1 hour.
- With wet hands, fold the salt and caraway seeds, if you’re using them, into the dough, adding just enough water to prevent stickiness. Cover again and let sit about 30 minutes.
- Proceed with the four folds as described on page 000, at 30-minute (or so) intervals. As you work, wet your hands and if necessary your work surface with just enough water to keep the dough from sticking. This dough won’t absorb water the same way as the basic loaf, so be prudent; you don’t want the dough to become shaggy and loose. Sometime over the course of the folds, line a 2-quart ovenproof pot with a lid with a sheet of parchment paper, pressing it into the bottom and creasing over the lip to keep it in place.
- After the fourth fold, wet your hands one final time. Lift the dough ball, cupping your fingers under the bottom, and lower it into the center of the parchment paper–lined pot. Cover the pot with plastic or a damp kitchen towel and let it sit until the dough puffs a bit and an indent made with your finger springs back slowly, 15 to 30 minutes.
- Dust the top of the dough with rye flour and/or a sprinkling of caraway seeds if you like and slash it with a couple of parallel lines. (Mark sometimes sprinkles coarse salt on top too.) Cover the pot with its lid, put it in a cold oven, and set the heat to 485°F. After 30 minutes, carefully remove the lid. Return the pot to the oven.
After another 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully take the loaf off the parchment and put it directly on the rack (or on a pizza stone if you keep one in your oven). Bake until the crust is dark and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers about 205°F, about 30 minutes. Transfer the bread to a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing.
This will be slightly denser, with a tad less doming, especially if the flour you’re using doesn’t develop good elasticity or strength. But it’s so rye-y that true enthusiasts like Mark’s friend and neighbour Danny—an unofficial tester over the years—will be happy to make the tradeoff. In Step 2, increase the rye in the dough to 50 grams and reduce the whole wheat to 150 grams. Be extra careful not to oversaturate the dough with water during the folds. Everything else remains the same.
Use the main recipe. When you add the salt in Step 3, fold in 50 grams chopped onions (1/2 medium or one small) and reduce the caraway to 20 grams.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.