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Bread – Let it Sing

Listen closely.

That crackling sound you hear is the bread “singing”.

It’s why you should never cut into a piping hot loaf of bread fresh from the oven, tempting as that may be. Let it rest and sing for awhile as it finishes the process of baking all by itself.

Here’s what Jim Lahey has to say about singing, in his book My Bread, which is where I get my bread recipes and technique –

Just after you take a loaf out of the oven, something strange often happens: it begins to make wierd noises, a rapid-fire crackling sound, one pop after another. This “singing” as some bakers call it, is especially loud and obvious in the professional bakery, where dozens of loaves may be pulled out of an oven at the same time and placed together in a basket. They become kind of a snapping chorus. The singing lasts for several minutes – the temperature of the room will determine how long – as the bread cools.

This singing is evidence of the last phase of cooking, which takes place out of the oven- and is why you should always given a loaf time to cool before slicing it. The exterior of the loaf is very dry at the moment it’s removed, but the interior is still wet. During cooling, the two elements of the bread start to even out somewhat, although the crust will remain brittle and the crumb soft. The crust is shrinking and cracking. Steam escapes through the cracks, which is the racket you hear, as it forces its way through, while the crumb solidifies. At this moment, the bread seems alive.

I know its a romantic idea, but it’s how you get to feel when you fall in love with a simple, but beautifully baked rustic loaf.

So wait till the song is over before you cut into that loaf of bread. It’s well worth the wait.

Einkorn No Knead Artisan Bread (and a primer on ancient wheat)

All wheat is not the same.

What we now call wheat is actually the product of hybridization and cross breeding of wheat species to increase crop yields, ease harvesting, decrease costs and scale up production. As a result, where there were once just 5 or so species of wheat, there are now literally thousands, which genetically, may be virtually unrecognizable to ancient grains from which they are descended.

Allow me to introduce these so-called ancient grains to you now:

  1. Einkorn Wheat (14 chromosomes / Diploid): The first known wheat ever cultivated by humans (circa 3300 BC in Europe) is Einkorn Wheat, which has just 14 chromosomes (diploid) and has a hull. Einkorn has great flavor, and has higher lipid, protein, vit E, lutein and carotenoids that modern bread wheat, and may be better tolerated by those with gluten sensitivities. (But not Celiacs, who should avoid all wheat, ancient or otherwise).
  2. Emmer and Duram Wheat (28 chromosomes / Tetrapoloid): About 10,000 years ago, Emmer Wheat appeared in the Middle East, as a product of natural cross breeding of Einkorn with wild goat grass (Aegelops speltoides). Emmer is a hulled wheat, has a lower glycemic index and is higher in protein and anti-oxidents than typical bread wheat. Some varieties may be lower in minerals than bread flour. Durum wheat is a domesticated form of emmer used for pasta and is a naked wheat (no hull).
  3. Ancient Bread Wheat and Spelt (42 Chromosomes / Hexaploid): Sometime before biblical times, it is thought that Emmer bred naturally with a durum wheat grass called Aegrolops squarosa to yield Triticium aestivum, a higher yield and better baking species that we call “bread wheat”. It is a naked wheat (no hull). Spelt is another hexaploid species that probably formed a little later than bread wheat, and has a hull.  Spelt has similar gluten, and is higher in protein, lipids, and unsaturated fatty acids and minerals when compared to bread flour. It is lower in fiber than bread wheat, and I am told that it does not make as good a bread.

The hexaploid bread flour species are genetically pliable, having 42 chromosomes with thousands of genes available for natural selection and breeding by man. Still, by the mid 18th century, only 5 species of bread flour were being grown in Europe, and until the mid-20th century, most bread flour was pretty similar.

But beginning in the latter part of the 20th century, aggressive modern breeding practices began that created literally thousands of different varieties of hexaploid bread and durum wheat. Much of the breeding was done to improve crop yields and battle environmental scourges such as drought and pests. Some have made wheat easier to process, but dependent on man-made assistance from pesticides and irrigation. Still other breeding may have been done to improve the nutritional content of wheat. But virtually none of the new wheat varieties was ever tested in humans before introduction into the food supply.

While we know how these species perform on the farm and in the wild, what we don’t necessarily know is how they may affect the humans who ingest them. The question now being asked by many is this – In selecting for things like crop yield, harvest ease and bakeability, have we created wheat species with genetic and nutritional profiles that are unfriendly to our bodies? We are not just talking gluten sensitivity here. We are talking glycemic index, fat and protein content, vitamin and mineral profile. Not to mention the effects of the additives food manufacturers add to baked goods to improve shelf life, taste and other qualities that will increase their appeal to consumers.  Many of us are asking if the symptoms we experience such as bloating, weight gain, skin rashes, headaches, allergies, joint pains – in the absence of identifiable disease – may in fact be the result of sensitivities to the proteins found in modern wheat.

Not everyone is waiting for answers. Instead, they are turning back to the ancient grains nature created before modern man got his mitts into Triticum’s genetic pool. American farmers are belatedly joining their Eupropean counterparts in growing Einkorn, Emmer and Spelt, as the demand from consumers for these grains begins to rise. Some of us are enjoying using Farro – the wheat berries of Einkorn, Spelt and Emmer – in salads and side dishes. Others are using the flours of these wheat species to make their own breads and pastas. The anecdotal evidence seems mixed on whether or not there are really any health benefits to using ancient wheats. We know they cannot be used by those with true gluten allergy.

My interest in the ancient grains comes from reading Wheat Belly, cardiologist William Davis’s program for eliminating wheat from the diet to lose weight. I’m still reading it, and have not tried his program – if I do, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, like many, I see no reason not to try these ancient grains. Farro for sure has already won me over.

This recipe is my attempt at seeing what kind of no-knead bread I can coax from Einkorn flour.



Readers of this blog know well my enthusiasm for Jim Lahey’s No knead bread making techniques, made famous by Mark Bittman of the NY Times. (If you don’t, stop right now and go to my previous posts about this technique, and learn it first before trying this recipe.) For this Einkorn bread loaf, I used a recipe from Jovial Foods, makers and distributor of Einkorn Flour.

It was an interesting experience. Einkorn flour has an almost baby powder-like silkiness and consistency, and is clearly a more moist and fatty flour than standard issue modern bread flour. One needs to use 5 cups of flour to get a similar size loaf to Lahey’s, and this flour ain’t cheap. The dough is much stickier and harder to work with, so make sure your board is well floured and use a dough scraper rather than your hands when forming the bread round.

The Jovial bakers do not use Lahey’s cloth technique (probably because the dough is so wet), or let the dough rise a second time before baking. I did both, and next time will avoid since it really was a mess, and the Jovial chefs state it is not necessary.

The results?

First and foremost, there is no such thing as a not delicious home made bread, and this was no exception. The bread is flavorful, moist and dense with a hard crust, and it is just lovely toasted.

But I have to say that it disappoints when compared to the incredible results I get with Lahey’s technique using regular flour. The crumb structure is more cake than bread-like, and I miss the big air pockets and incredible crunch that regular bread flour gives.

I’m going to give it one more try, avoiding the second rise and cutting back a bit on water (which I admit I upped a bit to get the dough to look more like Lahey’s.) The recipe below is exactly as I will make it next.



  • 5 cups (600 g) of Jovial Einkorn Flour
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 g) dry active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) sea salt
  • 1¾ cups (410 g) of warm water


  1. Whisk flour, salt and yeast together in a large mixing bowl (Do not use a glass bowl, as the dough will darken if exposed to light).
  2. Add water and combine using a wooden spoon or spatula (dough will be wet).
  3. When the flour is incorporated, push down sides of dough and flatten the top.
  4. Cover the bowl with a large plate and let rise for 12-14 hours.
  5. In the last half hour of the rise, preheat a covered ceramic or cast iron Ditch Oven in the oven to 500°F.
  6. Turn out the dough on a heavily floured work surface. Using a dough scraper, fold the dough ala’ Lahey (See video here), nudging and tucking the dough into around shape.
  7. Plop the dough right into the pot, cover, lower the heat to 450 degrees fahrenheit and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes to darken the crust.
  8. Lift the loaf out of the dish and place on a cooling rack.
  9. Let cool for at least one hour before slicing.
More Einkorn Links

Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

Summers in the mountains means bread.

I rarely make bread at home in New York City. Not that I couldn’t. After all, this bread is easy enough to make, and despite it’s long rise time, requires very little of my attention.

But thinking about making bread does require, for me at least, a relaxed, open mind. And the inward assurance that in 18 hours I will still be available to move the bread on to it’s second rise, and then to it’s baking. Coordinating that with my schedule in the city makes the bread making feel like a chore and not the joy it is when I undertake it here at the cottage. Here, the day and the next lay ahead of me, open and lazy. The only things on my must do list today are a morning lake trail walk and if its warm enough, a swim. Maybe a bike ride into town to the farm stand market to hunt for inspiration for dinner.

I put this bread up to rise last night at 10, just after we arrived. This morning we read, then I put the bread out for its second rise around 1. We stocked the beach locker with clean towels and then went to town for lunch and to check out the local shops for the first time this season, stopping to hear some bluegrass on the porch and chat with friends outside the Common Ground. After that, I came home and baked the bread while Mr TBTAM cleaned the gutters and mowed the grass and I read some more. By 5 pm the bread was done. It’s in the bread box now, awaiting tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch.  The salmon is marinating, we’re drinking wine and getting ready to start a fire. (Obviously it was too cold to swim today…) Tonight will either be a scrabble or a card game, and something made with the peaches I found at the farm market for dessert.

As I’m thinking about it now, bread making gives a kind of structure to an otherwise completely unstructured existence here on the mountain. It doesn’t depend on the weather (though it may vary a bit depending on temperature and humidity), and needs no one but me to make it happen. If we have company, as we will for much of the rest of the summer, I can adjust the timing accordingly, or make the shorter rise version. But every weekend will have it’s loaf at some point.

The bread making is a touch point for me, a way of grounding myself and transitioning from the hectic overdriven life in the city to the lazy days in the country. It gives me a sense of having accomplished something without demanding that I actually do very much at all.

And it tastes amazing.


This recipe is from Mark Bittman, inspired by Jim Lahey’s now legendary No-Knead bread making technique. Before making this bread, watch this video of Mark and Jim making this bread together, and this video of Jim teaching Mark for the first time how to do it. Even better, read Jim’s book, which was what I read today while my bread was rising. And read my previous blog post on my experience making this amazing bread.

This was my first try at making a whole wheat no-knead bread. The results were fantastic – a light, tasty, moist and chewy interior with a crunchy crust. Not as hard and thick and crunchy as Lahey’s white bread crust, but this may have been because I mistakingly baked the bread at 450 degrees instead of the recommended 500 degrees Fahrenheit. (Lahey seems to go back and forth between these two temps a lot – find which is best for your oven and stick to that). 

I went to whole wheat flour looking for something healthier. To that end, my next foray will be to the land of the heritage wheats.  I ordered some Einkorn flour today, and will see what kind of no-knead bread I can coax out of it next weekend.

Stay tuned.


  • 2 2/3 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp yeast (Active dry or instant)
  • 2 cups water.


Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour in water and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and let rise for 12-18 hours at room temp till well-risen, with a bubble foamy top and the beginnings of darkening color.

Scrape out onto a well floured surface, and with floured hands fold over ala’ Lahey. Place seam sides down on a clean non-terry towel generously dusted with wheat bran or corn meal. Fold the towel over top the bread and let rise another 4 hours, till doubled in bulk.

During the last half hour of the rise, preheat a 4-5 quart cast iron or ceramic french oven on a pull out shelf in a 500 degree Fahrenheit oven.

Open the oven door, pull out the shelf and take off the pot lid. (If your shelf does not pull out, take the entire pot out and place on top of the stove or on a heat proof counter to accomplish the next steps, but work quickly.) Gently place the bread-filled cloth onto an outstretched palm and walk over to the pot. Remove the lid and lay the bread, seam side up, into the pot. (Watch the videos for this technique.) Shake the pot a bit if you need to settle the dough into place. Place the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15-30 minutes to develop the dark, almost burnt crust. Remove pot from the oven and remove bread from the pot. Let the bread “sing” as it cools for another 15-30 minutes before even considering cutting into it.


More TBTAM Bread Making 

Time Makes a Better Bread – and A Better Bread Maker

Jim Lahey Bread 2

I”ve been making Jim Lahey’s bread for about four years now.

My first attempt was in New York City during Hurricane Irene, when I knew I’d be home for at least 24 hours with nothing to do but make this bread. which has a 12 to 18 hour rise, followed by a second two hour rise prior to baking.  The result was delicious, though a little flat.  But hands down the best bread I’d ever baked.

no-knead-bread first attemps
My first attempt at Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

I decided to try making bread during weekends at our cottage in the Endless Mountains, and immediately gravitated to Mark Bittman’s speedier version of Lahey’s recipe. The shortened 4 hour rise time allowed me to start the bread first thing on a Saturday morning and still have it ready by lunchtime.

That bread making schedule made us some very pretty breads and served us well on many a Saturday lunch.

Bittman speedier no-Knead bread

But not really.

You see, we often did not roll into the driveway of our cottage until very late Friday evening, especially if traffic was bad getting out of New York City. By that point, the thought of bread for tomorrow’s lunch was nowhere near my consciousness – all I wanted was bed. Next morning, by the time I got up and thought of bread, it was way too late to start a loaf if we were planning to do anything else that day.

So the sad truth is, though I like to think I did, most weekends on the mountain I did not make bread.


This summer I got smart and took off a bunch of Friday afternoons. Now we leave earlier from New York City (1 pm is the latest if you want an under 4 hour trip), and I work using my laptop and cellphone hot spot while Mr TBTAM drives. The result? One evening, I actually found myself sitting on the front porch on a Friday evening with a glass of wine at 6 pm!

This got me thinking – why not start the bread now instead of in the morning? After all, Lahey’s original recipe has an overnight rise.

The first phase of the recipe is so easy that I have it memorized and can get the bread set up to rise in 5 minutes. I can even start it at home while we’re packing up the food, and let it start to rise in the car while we drive! Next morning, I can sleep as late as 9 am and still have time to finish the second rise and bake it before lunch, leaving me a free afternoon to hike or swim or kayak.

If I want the whole day free, I set an alarm for 5, set up the second rise and head back to bed till 7:00, at which point I get up, heat the oven for a half hour while I shower, then bake the bread from 7:00 to 7:45 am. After cooling (an absolutely essential part of the process), the bread will be done by 8:15 am, and I have a full day to play.

My early morning bread making schedule

Somewhere along the line, I bought Lahey’s book and learned the actual science behind his bread. This brought home the reality of why this longer making bread is just a better bread than Bittman’s speedier version. The overnight rise is really a short fermentation, and the bread attains a wonderful sourdough-like taste. The crust it forms is thicker and the bread sturdier yet still soft – ie., better gluten. Lacey’s book also taught me to respect the rest after baking, during which the bread “sings” as the steam escapes, and never, ever to cut into the bread till it has cooled.

A big advantage of the overnight rise for me is that it is not as temperature dependent. It can get really cool up here on the mountain, and there were times I put the bread in the car and drove to a sunny spot to get a decent rise from Bittman’s speedier rise recipe. But when the yeast have 12 or more hours to do their thing, temperature seems not to be as critical. (If it’s going to be a really cool night, I do increase the yeast just a teeny bit as insurance.)

Speaking of temperature, I’m still wondering just how hot I can go when baking this bread. Bittman’s original article says 450 degrees, but in the NYTimes video Lahey says “500, even 515” degrees, and in his book, he says 475 degrees. (The bread pictured here was baked at 475 degrees.)

Lahey’s pics of the bread making process in his book are invaluable. I also strongly recommend watching this video from Mark Bittman to understand just how wet this dough is. Over time, I’ve gotten the confidence to know that if following the recipe exactly on a given day yields bread dough that’s a little too thick, I can add water and make it “just right”. This is the sort of skill that only comes with time and experience.

So try this bread. Then try it again. And again. And again.

With time, and sooner than you think, you’ll be making one amazing loaf.

Jim Lahey Basic Bread


More No-Knead Links 

No-Knead Bread. Thank You, Irene!

Long time blog TBTAM readers know that many of the great recipes I share on this blog come from my mother-in-law Irene, the world’s greatest home cook. So it should come as no surprise to learn that this weekend’s hurricane, which shares my mother-in-law’s name, brought me the best bread recipe I have ever made, and the best bread I have ever eaten.

I’ve been wanting to try Jim Leahy’s No-Knead Bread ever since Mark Bittman first revealed it to the world in 2006 – a simple yet elegant method of making bread that has found an almost cult-like following on the web and around the world. But the 12-18 hour rise always stopped me dead in my tracks whenever I considered making the bread, since I rarely, if ever, plan anything that far in advance. But once I realized on Saturday morning that Hurricane Irene would essentially confine me to my apartment till at least Sunday afternoon, I knew the time had finally arrived for me to drink the No-Knead Kool Aid.

And am I ever glad I did. This bread will change you life. I mean it. It is the easiest and best bread you will ever make. The crust is hard and golden, while the crumb is porous, soft and almost spongy with a sourdough type taste and consistency that rivals anything from the best bakeries. Hot from the oven it is heaven. Toasted with a little butter and jam it is divine. Use it for sandwiches. Eat it with cheese. Or just eat it plain.

You’ll never want any other bread again.

Thank you, Irene!

No-Knead Bread

From Jim Lahey via Mark Bittman in the NY Times. I strongly encourage you to watch the accompanying video before making this bread. 

As pointed out by baking maven Rose Levy Beranbaum, the water amounts in the recipe (1 5/8 cups) varies from that in the the video (1 1/2 cups), as do the rise times. (The video says nothing about the second 2 hour rise.) I decided to use 1 1/2 cups, and did not realize there was a second rise since I based my recipe on the video. I also used rapid rise instead of instant yeast. (With the MTA shut down, I could not get to a store that carried it.) As a result, my dough had completed its rise by about 4 hours, and by morning it actually had dropped a bit. Next time I will use the right stuff, do the second rise and expect my bread will be even lighter.  I should also point out that I accidentally put my bread in seam side down, so I did not get the nice folds that Leahy got in the video.

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (I used King Arthur all-purpose)
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • Wheat bran or cornmeal (I used wheat bran)

Combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and stir until blended with your hands or a wooden spoon (I used a spoon). The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise 12  to 18 hours at warm room temp (mine was about 72 degrees). The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a bit of flour on it and your hands, and working with a very light touch, press the dough down a bit then fold it over on itself (see video for technique.)  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle a clean smooth cotton towel with wheat bran, flour or cornmeal. Shape the dough into a ball and place seam side down on the towel. Sprinkle more bran on top and wrap the towel loosely around the dough. Let rise another 2 hours.

During the last half hour of the rise, heat a Dutch oven or other heavy baking dish in a 450 degree oven. When dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven and turn the dough into the pot (again, see video for technique – I screwed this part up…) Shake pan to center the dough in the pot .(Careful! It is hot!)  Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack. Try to wait till it cools before slicing and eating, so the crust can develop a bit more.

No-Knead Links (Share your fave No-Knead links in the comments.)

  • Lahey has a book of his No-Knead bread recipes (I’m adding this one to my wish list.)
  • Lahey’s version of the recipe varies cooking and rise times. Worth reading.
  • La Weekly interviews Lahey on his technique.
  • Breadtopia bakes Cooks Illustrated almost no-knead variation on Lahey’s No-Knead, including a whole wheat version.
  • Garden Fork uses parchment paper to make the transfer of the dough to the hot pot easier.
  • Sofya simplifies the method with a mixer and one bowl technique.
  • Vanilla bean blog has gorgeous pics of the method, and a beautiful final product.
  • Simply So Good makes some wonderful additions to the recipe, which she says she got from Le Creuset, but is the same as Lahey’s.
  • The Cookbook Chronicles uses a sourdough starter and regular yeast to get a gorgeous bread.
  • Leite’s Culinaria has Lahey’s No-Knead olive bread recipe.
  • Penni Wisner has whole grain variations and lots of tips on the no-knead technique.
  • Shutter bean makes Lahey’s walnut raisin No-Knead.
  • Bob Parvin has an excellent post with tips on no-knead that answers almost any questions you may have about the method.