First Impressions: Physically, this book feels just right. It's slimmer than many of the big, all-inclusive tomes being published these days, but we felt neither overwhelmed with recipes nor wished for more. Each carefully chosen recipe is artistically arranged on the page to draw us in and encourage leisurely browsing. The pages themselves are thick and sturdy, ready for a spell in the kitchen.
The photos are both beautiful and informational. They illustrate crucial steps and show us how the finished product should look - or at least how they'd look if we, too, had a whole set of gorgeous rustic boards to show them off!
The Angle: We all know Jim Lahey's original no-knead bread and can probably recite the recipe without even looking. This book shows us how to take it to the next level. The recipes show how versatile the dough can be, how it can be modified for more than just sandwich bread and adjusted to include different flavors and ingredients. There is also a heavy emphasis on classic old-world breads like ciabatta and rye breads. All the recipes feel grounded in this tradition.
The Recipes: The recipes are basically divided into two parts: new bread recipes using the slow-rise no-knead technique and recipes that use the bread to make things like pizza, sandwiches, and bread pudding. The bread recipes are inventive and inspiring - even if you've done a lot of experimenting with the original recipe on your own, there's still going to be something here to make you reach for your measuring cups.
We were most surprised and impressed by the section on sandwiches. This part of the book includes not only suggestions for sandwiches and paninis, but recipes for making what goes inside. These are things like homemade pickles, spicy mustard, roast beef, and vegetable spreads. The combinations of flavors made our mouths water just thinking about them.
The Other Stuff: Don't tell anyone, but we normally skip over long introductions from the author and head straight for the recipes. This time, we're glad we didn't. Lahey goes into detail about the path that took him to that New York Times article and describes how his no-knead method came to be. It's an interesting read! We appreciated seeing how the no-knead bread evolved step by step and hearing about Lahey's process.
Strengths & Weaknesses: We'll be honest with you - when we first heard that there was another no-knead bread book coming out, we rolled our eyes. Even though it was by the original no-knead bread man himself!
But just a quick flip through the book convinced us that this book, at least, deserves a spot on the shelf. It's evident that each recipe has been chosen with the utmost care and has been tested again and again in Lahey's actual Sullivan Street Bakery until it's perfect. We love very the simplicity of the recipes. Every one of them has a careful balance of flavors and textures, and the addition of each ingredient feels deliberate and lovingly done.
There are some things that we could pick at - like Lahey recommending we buy $110 All-Clad loaf pans, which might make sense for a professional bakery but we can't imagine is really all that crucial for a home kitchen - but overall, we can't find anything very major to complain about! We really enjoyed this book and look forward to baking from it for years to come.
Recipes for Right Now: Pan co'Santi (Walnut Bread), Pancetta Bread, Peanut Butter and Jelly Bread, Almond-Apricot Bread, Pizza Patate (Potato Pizza), Citrus Roast Pork and Panino Cubano, Ribollita (Tuscan Bean and Kale Soup), Budino (Bread Pudding Tart)
Recommended? Yes! If you love no-knead bread, this book will inspire new heights in your baking. There's something in here for novice and experienced bakers alike.
Buy the Book: My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey with Rick Flaste, $18 on Amazon.com.