I used to love to bake bread. It was extremely satisfying to take yeast, water, flour, sugar, salt and oil, and with a little bit of work, transform it into a delicious loaf. The bread was best enjoyed, of course, straight from the oven with pats of rich butter.
But to be honest it’s been a long time since I last rolled up my sleeves and kneaded dough. While I still enjoy the process, I’ve been spoiled by New York’s amazing array of bakeries. On my way home or on the weekend, I can stop for a fresh baguette or a sourdough boule at Silver Moon on the Upper West Side. And during the week, I often head over to the Sullivan Street Bakery, which is a few blocks from my office in Chelsea for a sandwich or a slice of focaccia with vegetable toppings.
So, I was surprised at how much I suddenly missed baking when I looked through Jim Lahey’s new Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook, which came out this past November. The oversized tome, seduces even the most ambivalent bakers with beautiful photographs and detailed instructions. The recipes are straight forward and Lahey, who opened the bakery in 1994, seemingly dares you to start making your own bread.
The easiest way to begin is with one of his breads that uses store-bought yeast and not his homemade starter. (There is, of course, a chapter on making starter if you’re so inclined.) The Pane di Lino (Golden Flax Bread) is one of these recipes and, according to Lahey, is perfect for sandwiches. But don’t be put off by the idea of working with flax. “These days flax has a reputation as a superfood, and somehow, in the enthusiasm over its health benefits, its lovely sweet, mild, nutty flavor has been forgotten,” he writes. “Flax has been used alongside wheat in bread baking for much of human history—I think that makes it an ancient grain—and I’m sure one of the reasons it’s been used with wheat is that is has such a pleasant taste.”
If that doesn’t get you baking, I’m not sure what will.
Pane di Lino (Golden Flax Bread)
- 370 grams (2.5 cups) Unbleached all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting
- 25 grams (.25 cup) Milled flaxseeds
- 5 grams (1 Tbsp) Wheat bran
- 3 grams (1 tsp) Fast-acting/instant yeast
- 6 grams (1 tsp) Fine sea salt
- 300 grams (1.33 cups) Water
- 5 grams (1 tsp) Grape seed, olive, or walnut oil, plus oil for the pan and lid
Whisk the flour, flax meal, wheat bran, yeast, and salt together in a medium bowl to combine. Whisk the water and oil together in a larger bowl. Pour the dry ingredients into the water and oil and mix quickly with a spoon. Within seconds the dough should come together. It will look lumpy and shaggy. Cover loosely and let rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. Dust the edges of the dough with flour and fold them into the center. Flip the dough over, re-cover, and allow to double in size at room temperature—about 4 hours. It should be springy, sticky, and elastic. If you tug at it, it should pull back. Flour the edges of the dough, scrape them off the side of the bowl, and fold them into the center of the dough. Flip the dough over and let rest, covered with a tea towel at room temperature, for an hour or until it looks like it is beginning to grow again.
Use a teaspoonful of oil to coat a Pullman pan and lid. Lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Lightly flour the top of the dough and pat it down to flatten it into an approximately 8-inch round. Take the left side and fold it across the dough, two-thirds of the way to the right side. Fold the right side of the dough two-thirds of the way across the dough to the left side, gently pat down the dough again, and make a tube by folding down the two corners farthest from you to make a small triangle. Pat down the tip of the triangle very firmly and then roll it toward you. Continue rolling the entire dough toward you until you have a 9-inch-long cylinder. Put the dough seam side down into the Pullman pan and press the dough down gently to fill the corners. Slide the lid on to cover the pan, leaving a small slit open so you can keep an eye on the dough. Let the dough proof at room temperature for 1.5 to 3 hours. The dough is ready when it reaches the top of the rim of the pan. (At this point it can also be refrigerated overnight and baked off first thing in the morning. Allow refrigerated loaves to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.) Slide the lid completely shut.
Heat oven to 450°F. Put the Pullman pan in the oven gently, taking care not to disturb the dough. Bake for 45 minutes with the lid on throughout. When the bread is ready, it will be a light, golden, tan, sandy color—think Desert Storm buff. The finished loaf will look like it’s just ready to pull away from the side of the pan. Once you take the bread out of the oven and remove the lid, remove the bread from the pan within 5 minutes. (If the loaf sits in the pan longer, condensation in the pan will make the sides of the bread wet and soggy.) Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Flax meal: Bob’s Red Mill and several other suppliers sell bags of golden flax meal, but you might also buy golden flax seeds and grind your own, if desired.
Yield: One 9-inch-long Pullman loaf; 1.25 pounds
Equipment: A 9-by-4-inch Pullman loaf pan with lid
Recipe and photograph from The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook by Jim Lahey with Maya Joseph. Copyright © 2017 by Jim Lahey. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Squire Fox. Used with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.