(Almost) hands-free baking

The no-knead bread recipe printed in the New York Times last year swept the cooking world, as fans of homemade bread discovered that hands-on effort was not necessary to create a great loaf. I tried the technique myself, and the result was a wonderful rustic loaf with a minimum of effort. Now comes “Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads” by Nancy Baggett (John Wiley & Sons, $24.95).

Baggett explains in great detail the chemistry behind this hands-off technique, and explains exactly why she suggests the steps she does. She notes that the history of this long and slow rising version of bread making actually goes back to the 19th century.

The recipes include no-knead versions of challah, cinnamon sticky buns and pizza dough, as well as classic rustic breads. The detailed directions will reassure both first-time bread-makers and experienced hands. My only suggestion is that total preparation times for each recipe might have been helpful. I’ve had to add in my head the rising times, refrigeration times, etc., to decide when to start the dough. A risky thing, math, since I’m a writer. And it makes my brain hurt. But the smell of fresh bread baking, bread that I practically ignored, eases the ache.

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